NASA’s Perseverance Mars rover has sent back its first image(s) from the surface of the Red Planet. The image(s) come from Perseverance’s Hazard Avoidance Cameras (Hazcams), which help with driving. The clear protective covers over these cameras are still on. These first images are low-resolution versions known as “thumbnails.” Higher-resolution versions will be available later.
The latest spacecraft news can be found on the mission update page, and more details about landing are forthcoming. A post-landing briefing is expected at 5:30 p.m. EST (2:30 p.m. PST) on NASA TVand YouTube.
The team of engineers that piloted NASA’s Mars 2020 spacecraft, with the Perseverance rover and NASA’s Ingenuity Mars Helicopter inside, during the cruise from Earth to the Red Planet has handed over the reins to the entry, descent, and landing (EDL) team.
The spacecraft is expected to hit the top of the Martian atmosphere at around 3:48 p.m. EST (12:48 p.m. PST) and touch down at around 3:55 p.m. EST (12:55 p.m. PST). Many engineers refer to the time it takes to land on Mars as the “seven minutes of terror.” Not only is the choreography of EDLcomplex, but the time delay involved in communicating with Earth means that the spacecraft has to accomplish this choreography all by itself.
NASA is currently hosting live coverage of landing on NASA TVandYouTube. More information about how to watch these streams is on the mission’swatch onlinepage. Share photos of you and your loved ones watching landing with the hashtag #CountdownToMars.
Live coverage of NASA’s Mars 2020 Perseverance rover landing is about to start on NASA TV and YouTube. More information about how to watch these streams, which include a 360-degree view from inside mission control, is on the mission’s watch onlinepage. Share photos of you and your loved ones watching landing with the hashtag #CountdownToMars.
In the next several minutes,mission controllers are expected to turn off the transmitter sending commands to the spacecraft. At that time, they will have effectively taken their hands “off the wheel,” leaving Perseverance to complete the programmed landing sequence on its own. The spacecraft is expected to hit the top of the Martian atmosphere at around 3:48 p.m. EST (12:48 p.m. PST) and touch down at around 3:55 p.m. EST (12:55 p.m. PST). Perseverance will land with NASA’s Ingenuity Mars Helicopter attached to its belly.
Two NASA Mars orbiters will relay data on the Perseverance Mars rover landing back to Earth – the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO) and the Mars Atmosphere and Volatile EvolutioN (MAVEN) spacecraft. They are part of the Mars Relay Network.
MRO is expected to relay detailed Perseverance engineering data to Earth in near-real-time. MAVEN will also be flying over Perseverance’s landing site around the same time, recording the same data as MRO. MAVEN, however, will only be able to transmit its data hours after the rover lands. Both orbiters send data back through the antennas of NASA’s Deep Space Network (DSN).
Since the rover has preprogrammed landing instructions and significant autonomy, Perseverance can land safely on Mars without a communications link. There are additional scheduled playbacks of the data from MRO and MAVEN, as well as additional orbiter overflights, after landing, that can relay signals from the rover.
NASA’s Perseverance rover, with the Ingenuity Mars Helicopter attached to its belly, is on track to land on the Red Planet tomorrow, Feb. 18, 2021. Since launch, it has traveled over 291 million miles (468 million kilometers), and has about 1,260,000 miles (2,035,000 kilometers) left on its journey to Mars. Mission controllers expect to receive confirmation on Feb. 18 that it has hit the top of the Martian atmosphere at around 3:48 p.m. EST (12:48 p.m. PST) and touched down gently on the surface at around 3:55 p.m. EST (12:55 p.m. PST).
Watch live commentary of landing starting at 2:15 p.m. EST (11:15 a.m. PST) on landing day on NASA TV. For more information about virtual landing livestreams, including details on a special livestream for students at 12:30 p.m. EST (9:30 a.m. PST), visit the mission’s watch online page.
And be sure to keep your eyes peeled, because cities around the country are celebrating the landing by lighting the town red. The Empire State Building in New York began lighting its tower red on Tuesday, Feb. 16, starting at sunset, the Los Angeles International Airport gateway pylons will glow red from sundown beginning today, Wednesday, Feb. 17. Other sites in the United States recognizing the upcoming landing include select buildings along the Chicago skyline, such as the Adler Planetarium.
Some 201 days after launch from Cape Canaveral, Florida, the Perseverance rover has just under three more days of “cruise” before its planned Feb. 18 landing at Mars’ Jezero Crater. As of Feb. 14, the rover had traveled over 288 million miles (464 million kilometers) of its 292.5-million-mile (470.8-million-kilometer) journey to the Red Planet. The spacecraft is about 124 million miles (about 200 million kilometers) from Earth and about 514,000 miles (827,000 kilometers) from Mars. The mission team reports spacecraft velocity is 64,123 mph (103,197 kph) relative to Earth, 5,750 mph (9,253 kph) relative to Mars, and 48,004 mph (77,255 kph) relative to the Sun. One-way light time – the time it takes for a signal to travel from Earth to the spacecraft – is 11 minutes, 2 seconds.
During the cruise phase of the mission (the time between launch and landing), engineers on Earth have been keeping close tabs on the spacecraft. Major activities during cruise have included:
Checking spacecraft health and maintenance
Monitoring and calibrating the spacecraft and its onboard subsystems and instruments
Performing attitude correction turns (slight spins to keep the antenna pointed toward Earth for communications and to keep the solar panels pointed toward the Sun for power)
Conducting navigation activities, such as trajectory correction maneuvers, to determine and correct the flight path before atmospheric entry.
While Perseverance is getting ready to land this Thursday, Feb. 18, you can get ready, too! Use this toolkit to get the latest updates, download materials, and tune into programs as we get ready to #CountdownToMars. The first of many pre-landing news briefings begin Tuesday, Feb. 16, at 10 a.m. PST (1 p.m. EST). You can view the full schedule – including educational shows, news briefings, and landing-day commentary – at our “Watch Online” guide.
“With safe mode exit, the team is getting down to the business of interplanetary cruise,” said Mars 2020 deputy project manager Matt Wallace of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory. “Next stop, Jezero Crater.”
Managed by JPL, a division of Caltech in Pasadena, California, the Mars 2020 Perseverance rover is part of a larger program that includes missions to the Moon as a way to prepare for human exploration of the Red Planet. Charged with returning astronauts to the Moon by 2024, NASA will establish a sustained human presence on and around the Moon by 2028 through NASA’s Artemis program.
The team controlling NASA’s Mars 2020 Perseverance rover has received telemetry (detailed spacecraft data) down from the spacecraft and has also been able to send commands up to the spacecraft, according to Matt Wallace, the mission’s deputy project manager. The team, based at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Southern California, has confirmed that the spacecraft is healthy and on its way to Mars.
Wallace provided a more detailed update on two issues during launch operations:
“First, the proximity of the spacecraft to Earth immediately after launch was saturating the ground station receivers of NASA’s Deep Space Network. This is a known issue that we have encountered on other planetary missions, including during the launch of NASA’s Curiosity rover in 2011. The Perseverance team worked through prepared mitigation strategies that included detuning the receivers and pointing the antennas slightly off-target from the spacecraft to bring the signal within an acceptable range. We are now in lock on telemetry after taking these actions.
“The second issue was a transient event involving temperature on the spacecraft. The mission uses a liquid freon loop to bring heat from the center of the spacecraft to radiators on the cruise stage (the part that helps fly the rover to Mars), which have a view to space. We monitor the difference in temperature between the warm inlet to the radiators and the cooler outlet from the radiators. As the spacecraft entered into Earth’s shadow, the Sun was temporary blocked by Earth, and the outlet temperature dropped. This caused the difference between the warm inlet and cooler outlet to increase. This transient differential tripped an alarm and caused the spacecraft to transition into the standby mode known as ‘safe mode.’
“Modeling by the team predicted something like this could happen during eclipse – the time when the spacecraft is in Earth’s shadow – but we could not create this exact environment for tests prior to launch. Nor did we have flight data from Curiosity, because its trajectory had no eclipse. We set the limits for the temperature differential conservatively tight for triggering a safe mode. The philosophy is that it is far better to trigger a safe mode event when not required, than miss one that is. Safe mode is a stable and acceptable mode for the spacecraft, and triggering safe mode during this transitional phase is not problematic for Mars 2020.
“With the understanding of the causes of these issues, we are conducting the operations necessary to move the spacecraft back out of safe mode and into normal cruise mode.”