NASA PerseveranceOn the Red Planet after a 293 million-mile flight, it is heading towards a harsh seven-minute landing on Thursday. The mission is an unprecedented attempt to find signs of microbial life in the past at the site of the ancient Mars River, delta, and lake.
Mission managers at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, said the spacecraft was in good health and performing its final approach flawlessly., Get ready for Half of which engineers joked about “seven minutes of terror.”
How can you watch the landing of the Mars probe today
- What or what: NASA’s rover landing on Mars
- History: Thursday, February 18, 2021
- time: The live broadcast starts at 2:15 PM EST; The landing is scheduled to begin at 3:48 PM EST
- Site: Crater Lake on Mars
- Online Stream: Follow your life CBSN – On the player above and on your A mobile device or broadcast device
When asked about the prospects for a successful landing, Deputy Project Director Matt Wallace said the sheer complexity of the 2,260-pound spacecraft, the heaviest and most complex to be sent to Mars, makes it difficult to predict.
“ We have two million lines of code that run hundreds of thousands of electronic parts, miles of copper conductors, and we have over 70 fireworks devices that should all be fired, and closed-loop guidance and control systems that actually have to work at an accuracy of less than a second until each succeeds This “.
“There is no going back. There are no attempts to try again. It is a difficult and dangerous part of the mission. … I think we did everything we could to make it work. We’ll see how tomorrow.”
Seven months laterFrom Cape Canaveral, the $ 2.4 billion spacecraft covered in a flying saucer-like air layer and shielded by a blunt heat shield, will crash into the top of Mars’ atmosphere at 3:48 PM EST.
When hitting the thin “air” that is mostly carbon dioxide at speeds of up to 12,000 miles per hour, the spacecraft would slow rapidly, enduring heat shield temperatures of 2,370 degrees as it slowed to less than 1,000 miles per hour in about four minutes.
At this point, at about seven miles and a speed of about 940 miles per hour, a parachute 70.5 feet wide will propagate into the supersonic ramp, slowing the spacecraft to just 200 miles per hour by the time it reaches an altitude of 1.3 miles. .
“There are a lot of hazards concentrated in opening the supersonic parachute,” said Allen Chen, the engineer responsible for the entry, descent and descent of the vehicle. “ It’s a very large parachute, the size of a Little League stadium, and opens in about six seconds while moving at roughly Mach 2 (twice the speed of sound).
“But … we’ve already done ultrasound tests at high altitudes (on the ground) this time as part of this project. So maybe we have a little more confidence that this will work.”
Descending off parachute and aft shell one minute before landing, the Roving Ranger Rocket Launcher Sky Crane Landing Cart will only fly 70 feet or so, lowering tenacity to Jezero Crater floor on a quick release sling.
Because of the 127-million-mile gap between Earth and Mars, it would take 11 minutes to reach the anxious flight engineers at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, transported via NASA’s Mars Exploration Vehicle.
As a result, the success or failure of a rover’s landing for seven minutes will depend entirely on its ability to know its exact location relative to the landing target and to adjust its course independently as required to avoid steep slopes, rocks, sand dunes, and other finishing hazards.
It offers one of the best places on Mars to search for signs of microbial life in the past – but it is also the most challenging landing spot NASA has tried to reach on the surface of Mars.
And it will all be over, one way or another, in just seven minutes, before the flight engineers receive signals confirming the start of entry into the atmosphere. Hence the familiar references to “seven minutes of terror”.
Look for signs of past life
If perseverance manages to get to the bottom safely, the robotic geologist will be ready to answer one of the most profound questions in modern science: Are we alone? Or is life, no matter how primitive, able to evolve in another world, and thus, could it exist in countless other worlds throughout the universe?
Jezero Crater was targeted because about 3.5 billion years ago it contained a 28-mile-wide body of water the size of Lake Tahoe fed by a river that cuts through the crater rim and precipitates sediments in a propeller-like delta clearly visible from orbit. Perseverance aims to land on the floor of the lake bed behind the delta.
Engineers plan to spend approximately 90 days verifying the rover’s complex tools and systems. During the first month, they also plan to deploy and test a 4.5-pound small helicopter, $ 80 million.– It will attempt its first powered flight in the thin air of Mars, the “Wright Brothers’ Moment” on another planet.
Another experiment will test the feasibility of extracting oxygen from the Martian atmosphere, a technology that could help future astronauts produce air and rocket fuel. But the mission’s primary goal is to search for signs of past biological activity.
Equipped with a robotic arm, a basic sampling exercise and a set of cutting-edge cameras, laser beams evaporating rocks and other tools, the Perseverance will study the bottom sediments of lakes, venture across the delta, and eventually finish off the shore of the ancient lake, collecting promising samples along the way.
The selected rocks and soil will be placed in a complex internal circular mechanism that independently photographed, analyzed and loaded into sealed tubes the size of lipstick which would eventually be deposited or temporarily stored on the surface.
NASA plans to send another spacecraft to Jezero later this decade to collect samples, load them into a small rocket, and detonate them in Mars orbit where a European Space Agency spacecraft will pick them up and return them to Earth for laboratory analysis.
But first, perseverance must land safely.
“This is always tough work for us,” Wallace said. “This is one of the most difficult maneuvers that we do in space.” “Roughly 50% of the spacecraft sent to the surface of Mars have failed. So we know that our work is cut short for us tomorrow to descend safely to the surface in Jezero.”