Space

Perseverance Mars rover touches down on the Red Planet

Perseverance Mars rover touche...
Artist's concept of the Perseverance rover on Mars
Artist's concept of the Perseverance rover on Mars
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Mars 2020 landing sequence
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Mars 2020 landing sequence
Perseverance landing site
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Perseverance landing site
Members of NASA’s Perseverance Mars rover team watch as the first images arrive moments after the spacecraft successfully touched down on Mars
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Members of NASA’s Perseverance Mars rover team watch as the first images arrive moments after the spacecraft successfully touched down on Mars
Artist's concept of the Perseverance rover on Mars
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Artist's concept of the Perseverance rover on Mars
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NASA's Perseverance Mars rover has safely touched down on the Red Planet. After a dramatic seven-minute descent, the robotic explorer landed at 3:55 pm EST in the 28-mile (45 km) wide Jezero Crater located in the Martian northern hemisphere and returned its first images four minutes later.

Though NASA has enjoyed a string of successful Mars landings in recent years, such missions are extremely difficult with an extremely high failure rate. Landing Perseverance was particularly nerve wracking for NASA engineers because the spacecraft was using a new navigation system that, if it worked, would allow it to land in a much smaller area than the one the Curiosity rover touched down in.

Today's events began with Perseverance still cocooned in its protective aeroshell and connected to the Cruise Stage, which handled the 293 million mile (471 million km) voyage to Mars that began on July 30, 2020. Due to the distance between Mars and Earth, radio signals take several minutes to reach their destination, so all the maneuvers were carried out autonomously with Mission Control back in California reduced to the role of passive observers, reading telemetry from the spacecraft directly or relayed by other Mars-orbiting craft.

Mars 2020 landing sequence
Mars 2020 landing sequence

Ten minutes before hitting the Martian atmosphere, the Cruise Stage separated. The spacecraft entered the atmosphere at a speed of 12,100 mph (19,500 kph) at 3:48 pm EST, where it was guided by small thrusters to maintain attitude control. As the atmosphere became thicker, the aeroshell acted as a lifting body that could be steered toward the landing site.

At 3:49 pm EST, the heat shield reached a temperature of 2,370 °F (1,300 °C) as it decelerated at 10 gravities from hypersonic to supersonic speed. The supersonic parachute deployed at 3:52 pm EST and the heat shield was jettisoned 20 seconds later. At this point, the landing radar began to operate accompanied by a new visual navigation system, which monitored the terrain below and fed data to the onboard computer for the ideal landing trajectory.

Two minutes later, the backshell of the craft separated and Perseverance and the Sky Crane stage went into free fall until the landing thrusters on Sky Crane fired. Within a minute, the spacecraft was hovering over the Martian surface and Sky Crane winched Perseverance down. Once the rover was released, Sky Crane flew off to crash a safe distance away when its fuel was exhausted.

Members of NASA’s Perseverance Mars rover team watch as the first images arrive moments after the spacecraft successfully touched down on Mars
Members of NASA’s Perseverance Mars rover team watch as the first images arrive moments after the spacecraft successfully touched down on Mars

The landing marks the beginning of the most ambitious interplanetary mission that has ever been attempted. The US$2.4 billion mission is the first to be tasked with seeking out life since the Viking lander missions in 1976, and will work with a series of planned spacecraft to return the first Martian samples to Earth for analysis.

The key component of the Mars 2020 mission, the nuclear-powered Perseverance looks very much like the earlier Curiosity rover, but is much more advanced with 130 pounds (59 kg) of new scientific instruments and a robotic helicopter, which is the first aircraft ever to be sent to another planet.

You can watch NASA's Perseverance landing coverage below – the landing procedure starts at around 1:25, and the landing is confirmed at 1:40.

Persaverance Landing

Source: NASA

View gallery - 4 images
9 comments
Tristan P
Wow!
CAVUMark
Quite an accomplishment. Congrats.
Phaedrus
I'm stoked to see Perseverance will learn!😁💪🇺🇸
GeoffreyR.Gunning
Fabulous NASA. Well done chaps & chapesses. Just brilliant.
Worzel
I'm waiting for the little green man to appear, and give it a parking ticket! ;-))
It will be interesting to see how well the drone performs in such a thin atmosphere. Meanwhile, pray that there is no dust storm in the near future.
Jeff Varda
People working together, using science, to accomplish an incredible task. Must be a message there for all of us somewhere. For us Americans we should take note of how many of the scientists were new to America. This was awesome.
Username
It seems a awful waste to crash the sky crane. Also nice (/s) to see humans continue to scatter refuse wherever is convenient ; the shell, heat shield, parachute, sky crane.
glickmich
NASA has come a long way! I remeber 1969 when man was landing on the moon no woman seemed to be involved. And now: What a delightful presentation of technical procedures by charming women.
WONKY KLERKY
ref 'Scrap/Litter:
I thoroughly concur with 'Username' in principle but point out that if we ever do get there, every bit of scrap will be valuable and will most probably be found and used.
+
ref 'Awful waste to crash the sky crane':
I again concur with Username and expand his sentiments.
I make the observation that it would be opportune at next tilt at this, if using same landing vehicle format, to attach cameras + secondary investigative/recording devices + (obviously) radio transmission/reception facilities to at least the 'sky crane' and attempt to land that proper/stable at safe distance from lander proper.
Further:
The parachutes could be similarly treated albeit with simpler apparatus
(eg. Wind speed/Drift recording reporting).