Perseverance on Mars: Where it is, and what the next steps are

Perseverance on Mars: Where it is, and what the next steps are

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In their first press conference following Perseverance’s successful landing on Mars, NASA and JPL scientists revealed some information on where the rover landed and what to expect for the next several days and weeks as it begins its mission in earnest.

Pics or it didn’t happen

One of the first orders of business is getting some of the images, audio, and video taken during the landing back to Earth. For now, doing so requires using a low-gain antenna to transmit data to some of the hardware in orbit around Mars. Jennifer Trosper, the deputy project manager for the rover, said that the Mars Odyssey orbiter should have a brief pass overhead within the next few hours, followed by the Mars Trace Gas orbiter, which will have a longer overflight and grab larger amounts of data. Matt Wallace, another deputy project manager, said that should be enough to allow NASA to release video of the landing on Monday.

Long-term, however, communications will rely on a high-gain antenna that will allow direct communications with Earth. That will require pointing, which means understanding the rover’s current orientation on Mars’ surface, which the team has inferred from the shadows cast in the first images sent down. Incidentally, those were taken with transparent lens caps on the Perseverance’s navigation cameras, so we can expect better images once those are removed.

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#jpl, #mars, #nasa, #perseverance, #rover, #science

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Perseverance rover has landed safely on Mars

Perseverance rover has landed safely on Mars

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NASA’s Perseverance rover has successfully landed on the surface of Mars, transmitting telemetry information and the first images of its landing site. A low-resolution driving-camera image shows a field of dust-covered rocks, with the unmistakable shadow of the rover hardware. The early images are so fresh that you can still see the dust kicked up by the landing settling.

The landing came at the end of a cruise through interplanetary space and a dive through the Martian atmosphere, as the rover and its rocket-supported crane shed parachutes, a heat shield, and a lot of speed. The voyage culminated in the skycrane gently lowering the rover to the surface before rocketing off to land at a safe distance.

NASA refers to the landing protocol as “seven minutes of terror,” due to its complicated, multistage nature, all of which is run under automated guidance. Adding to the tension, all of the outcomes already happened over 10 minutes ago by the time any indication of their success reaches Earth.

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#jpl, #landing, #mars, #nasa, #rover, #science

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NASA successfully launches its Mars 2020 Perseverance rover using an Atlas V rocket

NASA has launched one of its most crucial science missions to date, the Mars 2020 mission that carries its Perseverance robotic rover. This rover, a successor to the Curiosity robotic explorer, is equipped with sensors specifically designed to help it hopefully fund evidence of ancient, microbiotic life on Mars.

Mars 2020 departed from Cape Canaveral in Florida at 7:50 AM EDT (4:50 PM PDT). Perseverance was loaded atop a United Launch Alliance (ULA) Atlas V rocket, which had a good liftoff and deployed its second stage which put the spacecraft into a parking orbit as it readies to depart on its trip towards Mars, which will see it arrive in February 2021.

Once at Mars, the lander vehicle will take Perseverance down to the planet’s surface on February 18, 2021, to a target landing zone found in what’s known as Jezero Crater. This location on Mars was once a lake, long ago when the atmosphere on Mars was quite different than the dry, dusty and cold environment we know today. This has been chosen specifically because it’s a prime spot for finding any evidence of microbiological life that might exist, since it contains one of the best-preserved deposits of a river delta on Mars.

NASA scientists don’t expect to be able to confirm the existence of life on Mars using the instruments on Perseverance, however – they think they can find strong indications that the conditions and materials necessary for life once existed, but the ultimate proof could come from the ambitious Mars sample return mission being planned for 2026. This would involve NASA launching a return rocket to the red planet, which will carry a rocket that can take off from the Mars surface with samples collected by Perseverance on board. That would then meet up with a rover to be launched by the European Space Agency (ESA) which would then make the trip all the way back to Earth for scientists to study.

In addition to its contained, radioactive nuclear battery power source, environment sensors, cameras and a suite of other instruments to help pick up any preserved evidence of ancient life, Perseverance is equipped with microphones. This is the first time that microphones are making the trip to the surface of another world, and it means we could hear what it sounds like on the surface of another world, something we’ve never done before.

Perseverance also carries the Mars Ingenuity helicopter, a small drone designed for first-ever self-powered flight, which is also designed to warm itself to survive the cold Martian night. It is set to hopefully make up to five flights in 30 days, could include color photos – the first ever taken from an aerial vantage point.

This is a great first step for this historic Mars 2020 mission, and now we’ll wait and watch for other significant milestones, including next in around two weeks when the spacecraft fires its engines for its departure from Earth’s orbit and begins the long trip to Mars.

#aerospace, #esa, #european-space-agency, #florida, #mars, #mars-rover, #outer-space, #perseverance, #robotics, #rover, #science, #space, #spacecraft, #spaceflight, #tc

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Watch NASA’s Mars Perseverance rover launch live

NASA is set to launch its newest rover to Mars later this morning. The liftoff is set for 7:50 AM EDT (4:50 AM PDT), with a broadcast beginning at 7:00 AM EDT (4:00 AM PDT). This mission will launch a ULA Atlas V rocket to carry the Perseverance rover to Mars with a trip that will last several months, arriving in February 2021.

The 2,260-lb rover is equipped with a range of sensors to help it search for signs of past micro organic life on Mars, as well as study the planet’s amtospheric and geological makeup. It also carries with it a helicopter drone called Ingenuity, which will seek to become the first ever vehicle to take-off and fly within the Mars atmosphere.

Perseverance is a big upgrade over prior rovers in a number of ways. It can cover way more ground operating autonomously per day than any of its predecessors, for instance, which should help it conduct more science than ever before. It’s also equipped with 19 cameras to provide a full, detailed and high-quality view of its surroundings back to Earth. The rover is also designed to prime the pump for future human Mars exploration (and long-duration human Moon missions), with experiments on board like MOXIE, an instrument that will create oxygen from the CO2 found in Mars’ atmosphere, and will set the stage for a washing machine-sized version to be developed in future that will essentially act as a self-sustaining Mars power source.

Image Credits: NASA

The Perseverance rover is also unique in that it is preparing for a return trip for some of the samples it collects: The plan is to ultimately combine the efforts of NASA and the European Space Agency to retrieve samples of Martian soil that Perseverance leaves behind in collection canisters using a future spacecraft and retrieval lander, so that they can be studied directly back here on Earth.

#aerospace, #astronomy, #european-space-agency, #exomars, #mars, #outer-space, #perseverance, #rover, #science, #space, #spaceflight, #tc

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China’s first Mars rover is en route to the Red Planet after successful launch of Tianwen-1

China successfully launched a combination Mars orbiter and rover early this morning, using a Long March 5 rocket that took off from Wenchang Satellite Launch Center on Hainan Island at 12:41 AM EDT. The Tianwen-1 payload it carries represents China’s first full-scale Mars exploration mission, after a prior partial attempt with a orbital Mars satellite called Yinghuo-1 failed to leave Earth’s orbit in 2011.

This is a major effort not just for China, but also for extra-terrestrial planetary exploration in general, because it includes the combination effort of both the lander and rover in one combined mission, with the plan to deploy the rover on land and have it communicate with the orbiter as it makes its way around Mars all in one trip.

Tianwen-1 is the second Mars mission to take off this month, following a successful launch earlier this week by the UAE from Japan atop a Japanese MHI rocket. That mission, ‘Hope,’ carried an orbiter designed to take atmospheric readings of the Red Planet’s atmosphere.

China’s mission includes a planned 90-day excursion for the solar-powered rover it carries, which will employ various instruments on board to take samples and readings including multispectral photography, surface composition, weather readings and magnetic field information. The orbiter will also use its own cameras and instruments to gather info, including spectrometer readings, radar and photography, and will also act as a relay station to get data from the rover back to Earth.

There’s still one more mission to Mars yet to go before this year’s close approach (the time when Earth and Mars are closest to each other in their relative solar orbits) ends: NASA’s Perserverance Mars rover launch. That’s set to take off on July 30, weather and conditions permitting. Perseverance is the successor to NASA’s Curiosity rover, and includes a number of new scientific instruments to seek evidence of ancient life, and attempt to gather samples to actually return to Earth. It’ll also carry a small autonomous helicopter, which will hopefully become the first powered aircraft to take off from the surface of Mars when it reaches the red planet.

Tianwen-1 is expected to reach Mars next February, after a multi-month passage, which is the shortest trip possible between the two planets based on their relative orbits.

#aerospace, #china, #japan, #mars, #mars-mission, #mars-rovers, #outer-space, #perseverance, #rover, #science, #space, #spacecraft, #spaceflight, #tc, #united-arab-emirates

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NASA picks Astrobotic to deliver its water-hunting robot rover to the Moon

NASA has selected a company to fly its VIPER Moon rover to the Moon, for a mission which will be a crucial step in its Artemis program as it will help the agency determine where and how it can establish a long-term presence on the lunar surface. NASA announced on Thursday that Astrobotic will be its commercial partner in delivering the payload, with the mission currently scheduled for a 2023 Moon surface landing.

VIPER stands for ‘Volatiles Investigating Polar Exploration Rover,’ and the roughly golf cart-sized robotic rover will be scouring the Moon’s South Pole region for water ice, as well as water beneath the surface, if it exists. This is a key intermediary step for the Artemis program, which still intends to return the next American man and the first American woman to the lunar surface by 2024. Having a handy source of water will be an important part of establishing any long-term sustainable base on the Moon, since it can provide the necessary ingredients for a self-contained lunar fuel production facility.

NASA’s choice of Astrobotic for this mission is not surprising, since the agency has already contracted Astrobotic as part of its Commercial Lunar Payload Services (CLPS) program. The company is set to transport scientific payloads to the lunar surface aboard its Peregrine lander for its first CLPS mission in 2021, using a ULA Vulcan rocket to get to the Moon. This is a separate contract, which as mentioned is timed for a 2023 window.

Developing…

#aerospace, #artemis-program, #commercial-lunar-payload-services, #nasa, #outer-space, #rover, #science, #space, #spaceflight, #tc

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China set to launch Mars probe and rover mission in July

China’s space program will launch a Mars mission in July, according to its current plans. This will include deploying an orbital probe to study the red planet, and a robotic, remotely-controlled rover for surface exploration. The U.S. has also been planning another robotic rover mission for Mars, and it’s set to take off this summer, too – peak time for an optimal transit from Earth to Mars thanks to their relative orbits around the Sun.

This will be the first rover mission to Mars for China’s space program, and is one of the many ways that it’s aiming to better compete with NASA’s space exploration efforts. NASA has flown four previous Mars rover missions, and its fifth, with an updated rover called ‘Perseverance,’ is set to take place this years with a goal of making a rendezvous with Mars sometime in February 2021.

NASA’s mission also includes an ambitious rock sample return plan, which will include the first powered spacecraft launch from the red planet to bring that back. The U.S. space agency is also sending the first atmospheric aerial vehicle to Mars on this mission, a helicopter drone that will be used for short flights to collect additional data from above the planet’s surface.

China has a number of plans to expand its space exploration efforts, including development and launch of an orbital research platform, its own space station above Earth, by 2022. The nation’s space program also recently test-launched a new crew spacecraft, which will eventually be used in its mission to land Chinese astronauts on the surface of the Moon.

Meanwhile, NASA has issued a new set of draft rules that it is proposing for continued international cooperation in space, particularly as they related to reaching the Moon and setting up a more permanent human presence on Earth’s natural satellite. The agency is also hoping to return human space launch capabilities to the U.S. this week with a first demonstration launch of astronauts aboard SpaceX’s Crew Dragon spacecraft on Wednesday.

#aerospace, #astronomy, #china, #mars, #mars-mission, #mars-rover, #nasa, #outer-space, #rover, #science, #space, #space-exploration, #spaceflight, #tc, #united-states

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CMU’s tiny robot rover passes NASA design review ahead of 2021 trip to the Moon

Carnegie Mellon University is one step closer to operating its robotic rover on the surface of the Moon: The school’s diminutive bot has passed a crucial NASA design review, performed by the agency in collaboration with Astrobotic, whose Peregrine lunar lander will be providing the ride for the robot down to the surface of the Moon on a mission set for 2021.

The positive result from the design review did include a few design tweaks that the team will now implement as it moves from prototype to flight-ready rover, a process that’s designed to take place this summer. That version will stress tested for conditions during the launch and flight to Moon, to ensure its own safety, and the safety of other payloads on board the Peregrine lander, which is taking a number of experiments to the lunar surface on behalf of NASA.

CMU’s rover, dubbed Iris, weighs roughly four pounds, and it’s about the size of a large toaster. It’ll get the distinction of becoming the first U.S. robotic rover to explore the surface of the Moon, however, should it make its flight target. Eventually, it could also pave the way for a line of “CubeRovers,” or tiny, relatively inexpensive rovers that could contribute to a range of scientific investigations and endeavors, both public and private, without breaking the bank.

Iris has four wheels, but also two video cameras, which represent the main sensor loadout for the little robot. Camera miniaturization means that it’s a lot easier to collect quality image and video data from even small robot exploratory platforms, which is great news for companies like Astrobotic that hope to kickstart a whole new market of private deep space exploration using lightweight, affordable lander platforms like Peregrine.

#aerospace, #astrobotic-technology, #bank, #carnegie-mellon-university, #commercial-lunar-payload-services, #google-lunar-x-prize, #lunar-lander, #outer-space, #private-spaceflight, #robotics, #rover, #space, #space-exploration, #spaceflight, #tc, #united-states

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Max Q: SpaceX sets a date with history in May

This week in space was pretty active, with some startup news – including timing for a historic first – as well as scientific discoveries and innovation in the time of lockdown.

Who better than NASA to demonstrate how science can get done remotely, since the agency is used to conducting experiments from millions of miles away.

SpaceX will launch its historic first astronaut mission on May 27

SpaceX and NASA are now targeting a specific date and time for their first ever astronaut launch, the final demonstration mission in the Commercial Crew program before SpaceX’s Crew Dragon is fully certified for regular transport of human passengers to the International Space Station. The launch will happen on May 27, at 4:32 PM EDT if all stays on target.

First in-space satellite life extension was a success

The first-ever mission to use a dedicated vehicle to extend the life of a satellite on orbit worked as planned. Northrop Grumman’s first Mission Extension Vehicle (MEV-1) has successfully changed the orbit of an Intelsat spacecraft, extending its useful life another five years.

NASA’s daring Mars sample return plan explained

Image Credits: NASA/JPL-Caltech

NASA plans to bring back a piece of Mars with its next robotic rover mission to the red planet, and now it’s explained how it proposes to do that. It’s a mission that will involve many firsts, including the first-ever spacecraft launch from the surface of Mars.

And Perseverance… perseveres

The Mars rover for that sample collection mission is called ‘Perseverance,’ and NASA is persevering wits plans to launch that mission, with preparations continuing despite the COVID-19 pandemic. NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine went into a bit more detail in a new interview about what work continues, along with why and how.

Meanwhile another rover adapts to WFH life

Image Credits: NASA/JPL-Caltech

NASA’s current Mars rover, Curiosity, is operating actively despite work-from-home restrictions – with NASA engineers actually running the rover on the red planet from their home office setups. Rover was already remotely operated, so moving from the control room to the living room isn’t that much of an additional stretch.

New Earth-sized temperate exoplanet found

It hits the sweet spot for both size and temperature, but we still have a lot to learn about new exoplanet Kepler-1649c before we can say for certain whether it has all the conditions that would enable life. Chief among those is the composition of its atmosphere, but the discovery of the planet on its own is still cause for scientific celebration.

The first private space cargo mission has a landing site and launch date

Intuitive Machines is set to be the first private company to send a lunar lander to the Moon, as part of NASA’s Commercial Lunar Payload Services program. The launch will aim for a spot in the Moon’s largest valley, and carry instruments that will provide valuable info and testing for our own human return to the lunar surface in 2024.

#astronaut, #curiosity, #intelsat, #international-space-station, #jim-bridenstine, #mars-rovers, #max-q, #nasa, #northrop-grumman, #outer-space, #rover, #science, #space, #spaceflight, #spacex, #tc, #transportation

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