NASA’s Mars Rover Landing: When to Watch
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NASA’s Mars Rover Landing: When to Watch

NASA’s latest robot explorers will arrive on Mars on Thursday afternoon, after the third spacecraft arriving later this month from visitors United Arab Emirates And China. Perseverance is led by the rover Jezero Crater, which planet scientists believe may have been an ideal place to find preserved signs of life several billion years ago, if life ever arose on Mars.

But first, NASA’s mission has to come down in one piece.

Touchdowns are likely around 3:55 pm Eastern Time. Nasa television Jet Propulsion Laboratory in California will begin broadcasting coverage from the mission’s control room at 2:15 p.m.

During the descent, the spacecraft will send updates on how it’s doing. Because its main antenna will not point to Earth, its direct communication will be just a series of simple tones.

Alan Chen, the chief engineer for the landing portion of the mission, said during a news conference on Wednesday, “We can tell us different things using those tones.

It is possible that NASA will send some pictures back from the surface via the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter, but they may take hours to arrive. “If we can do that, that’s golden,” said Jennifer Trosper, deputy project manager for the mission.

In short, Rosa must stop at a full stop of more than 12,000 mph while being called a “seven-minute panic” for the duration of Rosa’s landing. There is no chance to do it. The path of persistence will intersect with the surface of Mars. The only question is whether the rover will end in one piece, ready to begin its mission, or break into several pieces.

The thin atmosphere of Mars adds many levels of difficulty. A spacecraft needs a heat shield, because friction from air molecules causes its lower part to heat up to thousands of degrees. But there is just not enough friction to slow it down to a gentle landing with parachutes.

The spacecraft will have to handle the landing operation itself. The radio signal takes 11 minutes to travel from Mars to Earth. This means that if anything were to go wrong, it would already be too late by the time people got word at NASA’s Mission Operations Center.

“It’s all about being autonomous,” said Matt Wallace, deputy project manager. “He has to fight hard to get to the surface on his own. It is something like controlled disassembly of spacecraft. “

Approximately 80 seconds after entering the atmosphere, the spacecraft experiences peak temperatures, with a heat gradient at the bottom of the capsule reaching 2,370 degrees Fahrenheit. Inside the capsule, it has very little toast – about room temperature. As the air becomes denser, the spacecraft slows down.

The small thresher at the top of the capsule fires to bend the angle and direction of its descent and keep it fixed towards its landing site.

At an altitude of about seven miles, four minutes after entering the atmosphere, the capsule is traveling at a speed of 1,000 mph. This is followed by a huge parachute, more than 70 feet in diameter.

The spacecraft now topples the heat shield, allowing cameras and other equipment to focus on the terrain below to determine its position.

With the giant parachute, the spacecraft is still dropping at a speed of about 200 mph.

The next important step is called the sky crane maneuver. The top of the capsule, called a backache, is let go and carried by parachute. Two pieces of the spacecraft remain. The top down is the descent stage – briefly a rocket-powered jetpack that carries the rover under it. Steering to avoid a collision with the Decent Stage Fire’s engine, first backshell and parachute. The engines then slow down the descent to less than two mph.

About 66 feet above the surface, the rover is mounted on cables. The line of descent continues downward until the rover’s wheels hit the ground. The cables are then cut, and the descent phase flies off to crash at a safe distance from the rover.

It has already worked once. Curiosity Rover, currently on Mars, successfully used the same landing system in 2012. But spacecraft are complex systems, and one success does not guarantee a second success.

Perseverance has a stronger parachute and more precise navigation system. NASA engineers say they have tried Chances are that everything will work to improve every step, But they do not know if they have detected every contingency.

“We haven’t really been able to figure out a good way to calculate the probability of success,” said Mr. Wallace, deputy project manager.

In decades, NASA has been successful in eight of nine landing attempts on Mars. The only failure was the Mars Polar lander in 1999.

Acting NASA Administrator Steve Jurczyk admitted in an interview, “I would be extremely nervous.”

Over the past 20 years, NASA has gradually asked more complex questions about Mars. At first, the mantra was “follow the water”, as there is where life can once be. With giant valleys, signs of river channels winding and dry lakes, it is clear that in the past, water has flowed on Mars, even though the planet is cold and dry today.

The destination of the fixture is the Jezero Crater. The rover will explore the delta of the river that once flowed into the lake filling the pit. Sediment piles are a promising place where fossil chemical signatures of ancient Martian microbes can still be preserved today.

The Rover is largely the same design as the Curiosity Rover, which is now studying the Gayle crater. But it is carrying a different set of devices, including sophisticated cameras, lasers that can analyze the chemical makeup of rocks and ground-penetrating radar. Testing these devices on Earth Demonstrated the possibilities of finding preserved signs of past life.

NASA’s new rover is carrying a four-pound helicopter called Ingenuity There will be an effort that has never been done before: the first controlled flight over another world in our solar system.

Flying on Mars is not a trivial effort. There is not much air there to push against generating lift. On the surface of Mars, the atmosphere as dense as Earth is only 1/100 th. Low gravity – a third of what you feel here – helps to be airborne. But flying through the surface of Mars is equivalent to flying through the air as much as would be found on Earth at an altitude of 100,000 feet. No terrestrial helicopter ever flies that high, and it is twice the altitude that jetliners usually fly.

NASA engineers used a range of materials and computer technology advances to overcome these challenges. Approximately two months after landing, the strongly helicopter will exit its belly, and Ingenuity will attempt a series of approximately five test flights of increasing duration.

If the tests are successful, it could pave the way for the larger Marscopter for the future. The option of using robotic flyers could expand the capacity of the space agency in much greater detail, as did the transition from stationary lander to rovers in earlier decades.



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