NASA video shows Perseverance rover's planned 'terror' landing on Mars
NASA has shown what it will look like when its Perseverance rover touches down on Mars, a challenging sequence that the agency describes as "7 minutes of terror."
The Perseverance rover was launched in the summer and is scheduled to arrive on Mars in February.
Once it reaches Mars' atmosphere on its way to Jezero Crater, it must slow down from its speed of 12,000 mph in a span of 7 minutes, touch down on the rust-colored surface and disconnect from the main spacecraft.
Tuesday, NASA released an animation that showed the complex process.
"The more we know about Mars, the better prepared we are to send humans there and get them home safely," Ken Williford, deputy project scientist for the Mars 2020 mission, told UPI in July.
"We wish to understand how Mars formed, how it evolved as a planetary system and what all of that can tell us about our own planet, our solar system and our place in the universe."
Since it takes about 11 minutes for a radio signal to reach Earth, NASA engineers won't know immediately whether the rover landed safely.
The landing sequence, however, won't be entirely new for NASA. The Curiosity rover landed in similar fashion on Mars eight years ago and NASA hopes that improved navigation tools will make things easier.
Once on Mars, NASA says Perseverance will study the surface for past microbial life, collect and store samples of selected rock and soil and prepare for future human missions. It's one of the most advanced machines ever sent to Mars and has a drill to collect samples that could one day make the long trek back to Earth.
"Compared to Mars, Earth is filled with evidence of the life that covers our planet," Ken Farley, the Mars 2020 project scientist at the California Institute of Technology, said in a statement.
"We needed to remove those signs so thoroughly that any scant evidence remaining can be confidently detected and differentiated when these first samples are returned."
The rover will carry state-of-the-art onboard cameras and microphones that will record the landing for NASA to study -- if all goes well.
NASA to Host Virtual Briefing on February Perseverance Mars Rover Landing
NASA is hosting a media briefing on Wednesday, Jan. 27, at 4:30 p.m. EST to discuss the upcoming landing of the Mars 2020 Perseverance rover. The event will air live on NASA TV, the agency's website, and YouTube.
Perseverance lands Feb. 18, carrying new science instruments and technologies, including the Ingenuity Mars Helicopter on its belly. Perseverance will use a drill on the end of its robotic arm to capture rock and regolith (broken rock and dust) samples in metal tubes, which will be deposited on the surface of Mars for a future mission to collect and return to Earth. The rover will seek signs of ancient life on the Red Planet as a primary goal.
Perseverance was built and managed for NASA by the agency's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Southern California.
Participating in the briefing are:
- Thomas Zurbuchen, associate administrator, Science Mission Directorate, NASA Headquarters
- Lori Glaze, director, Planetary Science Division, NASA Headquarters
- Matt Wallace, Mars 2020 deputy project manager, JPL
- Allen Chen, Mars 2020 entry, descent, and landing lead, JPL
- Ken Farley, Mars 2020 project scientist, Caltech
- Briony Horgan, Mars 2020 science team member, Purdue University
Media who would like to ask questions via phone during the event must provide their name and affiliation by noon EST Tuesday, Jan. 26, to Rexana Vizza at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Martian Sounds May Surprise Us After A Rover Lands Microphones There
As NASA’s Perseverance rover prepares for an epic landing Feb. 18, toting a helicopter along, students of Mars will be nervous that day. That’s because the rover plans to bring microphones to the surface and there’s no guarantee the plucky machine will even make it.
The landing teams are adept, experienced and ready to face adverse circumstances, but space exploration is hard. The Mars Polar Lander, also equipped with microphones, failed during landing. The Phoenix lander made it to the surface, but the microphones didn’t work properly. Can Perseverance overcome their obstacles and learn from their tough missions? We can only hope it will make it through a complicated landing, dubbed “seven minutes of terror”, and roll out safely on the surface.
But if the rover makes it and we can “hear” what Mars sounds like, it will give us some insight into weather and other processes on the Red Planet surface. The sounds will be only slightly “off” what we hear from Earth, but not as dramatic as say, “someone’s voice before and after inhaling helium from a balloon,” NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory said in a statement.
“The Martian atmosphere is only 1 percent as dense as Earth’s atmosphere at the surface and has a different makeup than ours, which affects sound emission and propagation,” JPL said, adding, “The rover carries a pair of microphones, which – if all goes as planned – will provide interesting and historic audio of the arrival and landing at Mars, along with sounds of the rover at work and of wind and other ambient noise.”
So what's at stake if the rover's microphones safely make it to the surface? A lot of interesting science. We'll hear the sound of Perseverance's laser transforming rock to plasma, as we learn more about the surrounding environment. A second microphone may pick up sounds like the unfurling of the rover's parachute during landing, the winds of Mars pushing past the rover, and the wheels of the rover grinding on the surface.
You can bet scientists will analyze any sound differences from Earth due to properties such as temperature (very cold on Mars), density (very thin on the Red Planet) and atmospheric composition (remembering that Martian atmosphere is mostly carbon dioxide and ours, nitrogen and oxygen).
"All in all, it would be like listening through a wall," stated Baptiste Chide, a postdoctoral researcher in planetary science at JPL and a contributor to the SuperCam microphone. “With the microphones onboard Perseverance,” Chide added, “we will add a fifth sense to Mars exploration. It will open a new area of science investigation for both the atmosphere and the surface.”
If we can listen in on Martian weather, this will provide yet another data point to better understand how the Red Planet behaves over long periods of time. Perseverance will also work closely with the NASA InSight lander and the long-running NASA Curiosity rover (which landed in 2012) to create the first weather station network on Mars.
This data will all be needed if we want to safely land humans on the Red Planet in the 2030s or 2040s — or whenever political will and budgets and technology allow us to get there.
Listening for a space craft to land on Mars
We may not have found life on Mars, but there is considerable excitement in the Oxford scientific community about the imminent possibility of detecting the landing of NASA’s Perseverance Rover using InSight, another spacecraft which is already on the red planet.
University physicists believe that, for the first time, they might be able to ‘hear’ a spacecraft land on Mars, when Perseverance arrives at Earth’s ‘near’ neighbour in about a month’s time around 18 February.
And NASA’s new probe is certainly not arriving quietly. The unmanned craft will plunge through the Martian atmosphere at enormous speeds, accompanied by a sonic boom created by its rapid deceleration. At the point it enters the atmosphere, it will be travelling at more than 15,000 km/h and its heat shield will reach more than 1,300 degrees centigrade during the descent.
NASA’s new probe is certainly not arriving quietly. The unmanned craft will plunge through the Martian atmosphere at enormous speeds, accompanied by a sonic boom created by its rapid deceleration
It will deploy two large balance masses which will hit the ground at hypersonic speeds, crashing down at a speed of 4,000 metres per second. It is these two masses which the scientists are hoping will create detectable seismic waves - which will travel the 3,452 kilometres between Perseverance’s landing site and InSight’s location.
The ears to ‘hear’ the impact are the InSight probe, which was sent to Mars three years ago to listen for seismic activity and impacts from meteorites. Parts of the spacecraft were built at Imperial College London and tested in the Department of Physics at the University of Oxford.
InSight detects seismic activity (marsquakes) to help scientists understand better the interior structure of Mars. Although many hundreds of marsquakes have been detected since InSight’s landing in 2018, no impact events (meteorites hitting the surface and producing seismic waves) have been detected. Impact events are of particular interest because they can be constrained in timing and location from pictures taken by orbiting satellites, and thus used to ‘calibrate’ seismic measurements.
So, the arrival of Perseverance Rover potentially offers the first opportunity to detect a known, planned landing of a foreign body on the surface of the planet. It could provide a wealth of evidence on the structure and atmosphere of Mars and has got the scientific community very excited about its potential.
According to Oxford physicist, Ben Fernando, a member of the InSight team, ‘This is an incredibly exciting experiment. This is the first time that this has ever been tried on another planet, so we’re very much looking forward to seeing how it turns out.’
This is the first time that this has ever been tried on another planet, so we’re very much looking forward to seeing how it turns out
InSight team member, Ben Fernando
InSight’s seismometers are potentially sensitive enough to detect Perseverance’s landing, even though this is expected to be very challenging - given the significant distance between the two landing sites. It is around the same distance as from London to Cairo. Nevertheless, the Oxford team believes the impact could potentially be detected by InSight and thus provide an immensely useful ‘calibration’.
According to Ben Fernando, ‘This would be the first event detected on Mars by InSight with a known temporal and spatial localisation. If we do detect it, it will enable us exactly to constrain the speed at which seismic waves propagate between Perseverance and InSight.’
A newly-published paper from the InSight team states, ‘Perseverance’s landing is targeted for approximately 15:00 Local True Solar Time (LTST) on February 18, 2021 (this is 20:00 UTC/GMT on Earth).’
The paper continues, ‘The spacecraft will generate a sonic boom during descent, from the time at which the atmosphere is dense enough for substantial compression to occur (altitudes around 100 km and below), until the spacecraft’s speed becomes sub-sonic, just under three minutes prior to touchdown. This sonic boom will rapidly decay into a linear acoustic wave, with some of its energy striking the surface and undergoing seismo-acoustic conversion into elasto-dynamic seismic waves, whilst some energy remains in the atmosphere and propagates as infrasonic pressure waves.’
The paper concludes, ‘We identified three possible sources of seismo-acoustic signals generated by the EDL (entry, descent, landing) sequence of the Perseverance lander: (1 ) the propagation of acoustic waves in the atmosphere formed by the decay of the Mach shock, (2) the seismo-acoustic air-to-ground coupling of these waves inducing signals in the solid ground, and the elasto-dynamic seismic waves propagating in the ground from the hypersonic impact of the CMBDs.’
InSight will ‘listen’ for the acoustic signal of the sonic boom in the atmosphere. But scientists think the best chance of detecting the landing will be the seismic impact of the balance masses.
The team expects to receive data from InSight within a day or two of Perseverance’s landing, after which they will investigate whether they have made a successful detection.
Quelle: University of Oxford
6 Things to Know About NASA’s Mars Helicopter on Its Way to Mars
Ingenuity, a technology experiment, is preparing to attempt the first powered, controlled flight on the Red Planet.
When NASA’s Perseverance rover lands on Mars on Feb. 18, 2021, it will be carrying a small but mighty passenger: Ingenuity, the Mars Helicopter.
The helicopter, which weighs about 4 pounds (1.8 kilograms) on Earth and has a fuselage about the size of a tissue box, started out six years ago as an implausible prospect. Engineers at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Southern California knew it was theoretically possible to fly in Mars’ thin atmosphere, but no one was sure whether they could build a vehicle powerful enough to fly, communicate, and survive autonomously with the extreme restrictions on its mass.
Then the team had to prove in Earthbound tests that it could fly in a Mars-like environment. Now that they’ve checked off those objectives, the team is preparing to test Ingenuity in the actual environment of Mars.
“Our Mars Helicopter team has been doing things that have never been done before – that no one at the outset could be sure could even be done,” said MiMi Aung, the Ingenuity project manager at JPL “We faced many challenges along the way that could have stopped us in our tracks. We are thrilled that we are now so close to demonstrating – on Mars – what Ingenuity can really do.”
Ingenuity survived the intense vibrations of launch on July 30, 2020, and has passed its health checks as it waits to plunge with Perseverance through the Martian atmosphere. But the helicopter won’t attempt its first flight for more than a month after landing: Engineers for the rover and helicopter need time to make sure both robots are ready.
Here are the key things to know about Ingenuity as the anticipation builds:
1. Ingenuity is an experimental flight test.
The Mars Helicopter is what is known as a technology demonstration – a narrowly focused project that seeks to test a new capability for the first time. Previous groundbreaking technology demonstrations include the first Mars rover, Sojourner, and the Mars Cube One (MarCO) CubeSats that flew by Mars.
The helicopter doesn’t carry science instruments and isn’t part of Perseverance’s science mission. Ingenuity’s objective is an engineering one: to demonstrate rotorcraft flight in Mars’ the extremely thin atmosphere, which has just around 1% of the density of our atmosphere on Earth.
Ingenuity will attempt up to five test flights within a 30-Martian-day (31-Earth-day) demonstration window. Its pioneering aspirations are similar to those of the Wright brothers' Flyer, which achieved the first powered, controlled flight on Earth.
2. Mars won’t make it easy for Ingenuity to attempt the first powered, controlled flight on another planet.
Because the Mars atmosphere is so thin, Ingenuity is designed to be light, with rotor blades that are much larger and spin much faster than what would be required for a helicopter of Ingenuity’s mass on Earth.
The Red Planet also has beyond bone-chilling temperatures, with nights as cold as minus 130 degrees Fahrenheit (minus 90 degrees Celsius) at Jezero Crater, the rover and helicopter’s landing site. These temperatures will push the original design limits of the off-the-shelf parts used in Ingenuity. Tests on Earth at the predicted temperatures indicate Ingenuity’s parts should work as designed, but the team is looking forward to the real test on Mars.
“Mars isn’t exactly pulling out the welcome mat,” said Tim Canham, Ingenuity’s operations lead at JPL. “One of the first things Ingenuity has to do when it gets to Mars is just survive its first night.”
3. Ingenuity relies on the Mars 2020 Perseverance mission for safe passage to Mars and for operations on the Red Planet’s surface.
Ingenuity is nestled sideways under the belly of the Perseverance rover with a cover to protect it from debris kicked up during landing. Both the rover and the helicopter are safely ensconced inside a clamshell-like spacecraft entry capsule during the 293-million-mile (471-million-kilometer) journey to Mars. The power system on the Mars 2020 spacecraft periodically charges Ingenuity’s batteries on the way there.
To reach the Martian surface, Ingenuity rides along with Perseverance as it lands. The rover’s entry, descent, and landing system features a supersonic parachute, new “brains” for avoiding hazards autonomously, and components for the sky crane maneuver, which lowers the rover onto Mars from a descent vehicle. Only about 50% of the attempts to land on Mars, by any space agency, have been successful.
Once a suitable site to deploy the helicopter is found, the rover’s Mars Helicopter Delivery System will shed the landing cover, rotate the helicopter to a legs-down configuration, and gently drop Ingenuity on the surface in the first few months after landing. Throughout the helicopter’s commissioning and flight test campaign, the rover will assist with the communications back-and-forth from Earth. The rover team also plans to collect images of Ingenuity.
4. Ingenuity is smart for a small robot.
Delays are an inherent part of communicating with spacecraft across interplanetary distances, which means Ingenuity’s flight controllers at JPL won’t be able to control the helicopter with a joystick. In fact, they won’t be able to look at engineering data or images from each flight until well after the flight takes place.
So Ingenuity will make some of its own decisions based on parameters set by its engineers on Earth. The helicopter has a kind of programmable thermostat, for instance, that will keep it warm on Mars. During flight, Ingenuity will analyze sensor data and images of the terrain to ensure it stays on the flight path designed by project engineers.
5. The Ingenuity team counts success one step at a time.
Given Ingenuity’s experimental nature, the team has a long list of milestones the helicopter must reach before it can take off and land in the spring of 2021. The team will celebrate each milestone:
- Surviving the cruise to Mars and landing on the Red Planet
- Safely deploying to the surface from Perseverance’s belly
- Autonomously keeping warm through the intensely cold Martian nights
- Autonomously charging itself with the solar panel atop its rotors
- Successfully communicating to and from the helicopter via a subsystem known as the Mars Helicopter Base Station on the rover
If the first experimental flight test on another planet succeeds, the Ingenuity team will attempt more test flights.
6. If Ingenuity succeeds, future Mars exploration could include an ambitious aerial dimension.
Ingenuity is intended to demonstrate technologies and first-of-its-kind operations needed for flying in the Martian atmosphere. If successful, these technologies and the experience with flying a helicopter on another planet could enable other advanced robotic flying vehicles that might be part of future robotic and human missions to Mars. Possible uses of a future helicopter on Mars include offering a unique viewpoint not provided by current orbiters high overhead or by rovers and landers on the ground; high-definition images and reconnaissance for robots or humans; and access to terrain that is difficult for rovers to reach. A future helicopter could even help carry light but vital payloads from one site to another.
NASA’s Perseverance Rover 22 Days From Mars Landing
Seven minutes of harrowing descent to the Red Planet is in the not-so-distant future for the agency’s Mars 2020 mission.
NASA’s Mars 2020 Perseverance rover mission is just 22 days from landing on the surface of Mars. The spacecraft has about 25.6 million miles (41.2 million kilometers) remaining in its 292.5-million-mile (470.8-million-kilometer) journey and is currently closing that distance at 1.6 miles per second (2.5 kilometers per second). Once at the top of the Red Planet’s atmosphere, an action-packed seven minutes of descent awaits – complete with temperatures equivalent to the surface of the Sun, a supersonic parachute inflation, and the first ever autonomous guided landing on Mars.
Only then can the rover – the biggest, heaviest, cleanest, and most sophisticated six-wheeled robotic geologist ever launched into space – search Jezero Crater for signs of ancient life and collect samples that will eventually be returned to Earth.
“NASA has been exploring Mars since Mariner 4 performed a flyby in July of 1965, with two more flybys, seven successful orbiters, and eight landers since then,” said Thomas Zurbuchen, associate administrator for NASA’s Science Mission Directorate at the agency’s headquarters in Washington. “Perseverance, which was built from the collective knowledge gleaned from such trailblazers, has the opportunity to not only expand our knowledge of the Red Planet, but to investigate one of the most important and exciting questions of humanity about the origin of life both on Earth and also on other planets.”
Jezero Crater is the perfect place to search for signs of ancient microbial life. Billions of years ago, the now-bone-dry 28-mile-wide (45-kilometer-wide) basin was home to an actively-forming river delta and lake filled with water. The rock and regolith (broken rock and dust) that Perseverance’s Sample Caching System collects from Jezero could help answer fundamental questions about the existence of life beyond Earth. Two future missions currently in the planning stages by NASA, in collaboration with ESA (European Space Agency), will work together to bring the samples back to Earth, where they will undergo in-depth analysis by scientists around the world using equipment far too large and complex to send to the Red Planet.
“Perseverance’s sophisticated science instruments will not only help in the hunt for fossilized microbial life, but also expand our knowledge of Martian geology and its past, present, and future,” said Ken Farley, project scientist for Mars 2020, from Caltech in Pasadena, California. “Our science team has been busy planning how best to work with what we anticipate will be a firehose of cutting-edge data. That’s the kind of ‘problem’ we are looking forward to.”
Testing Future Tech
While most of Perseverance’s seven science instruments are geared toward learning more about the planet’s geology and astrobiology, the mission also carries technologies more focused on future Mars exploration. MOXIE (Mars Oxygen In-Situ Resource Utilization Experiment), a car-battery-size device in the rover’s chassis, is designed to demonstrate that converting Martian carbon dioxide into oxygen is possible. Future applications of the technology could produce the vast quantities of oxygen that would be needed as a component of the rocket fuel astronauts would rely on to return to Earth, and, of course, the oxygen could be used for breathing as well.
The Terrain-Relative Navigation system helps the rover avoid hazards. MEDLI2 (the Mars Entry, Descent, and Landing Instrumentation 2) sensor suite gathers data during the journey through the Martian atmosphere. Together the systems will help engineers design future human missions that can land more safely and with larger payloads on other worlds.
Another technology demonstration, the Ingenuity Mars Helicopter, is attached to the belly of the rover. Between 30 and 90 days into the rover’s mission, Ingenuity will be deployed to attempt the first experimental flight test on another planet. If that initial flight is successful, Ingenuity will fly up to four more times. The data acquired during these tests will help the next generation of Mars helicopters provide an aerial dimension to Mars exploration.
Getting Ready for the Red Planet
Like people around the world, members of the Mars 2020 team have had to make significant modifications to their approach to work during the COVID-19 pandemic. While a majority of the team members have performed their jobs via telework, some tasks have required an in-person presence at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, which built the rover for the agency and is managing the mission. Such was the case last week when the team that will be on-console at JPL during landing went through a three-day-long COVID-adapted full-up simulation of the upcoming Feb. 18 Mars landing.
“Don’t let anybody tell you different – landing on Mars is hard to do,” said John McNamee, project manager for the Mars 2020 Perseverance rover mission at JPL. “But the women and men on this team are the best in the world at what they do. When our spacecraft hits the top of the Mars atmosphere at about three-and-a-half miles per second, we’ll be ready.”
Less than a month of dark, unforgiving interplanetary space remains before the landing. NASA Television and the agency’s website will carry live coverage of the event from JPL beginning at 11:15 a.m. PST (2:15 p.m. EST).
More About the Mission
A key objective of Perseverance's mission on Mars is astrobiology, including the search for signs of ancient microbial life. The rover will characterize the planet's geology and past climate, pave the way for human exploration of the Red Planet, and be the first mission to collect and cache Martian rock and regolith.
Subsequent missions, currently under consideration by NASA in cooperation with ESA (European Space Agency), would send spacecraft to Mars to collect these sealed samples from the surface and return them to Earth for in-depth analysis.
The Mars 2020 mission 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 lunar exploration plans.
NASA prepares for Mars 2020 landing
WASHINGTON — NASA’s Mars 2020 rover is on track for a landing next month that will begin in earnest an effort to return samples of the planet to Earth.
The spacecraft, launched July 30, is scheduled to land in Jezero Crater at 3:55 p.m. Eastern Feb. 18. It will place on the surface the Perseverance rover, a vehicle similar to the Curiosity rover that landed in 2012 but with a different suite of instruments and other enhancements.
“Everything is going really well. The spacecraft is healthy, the subsystems are operating nominally and team is making final preparations for EDL and initial surface operations,” Eric Ianson, director of NASA’s Mars Exploration Program, said at a Jan. 27 meeting of the Mars Exploration Program Analysis Group (MEPAG).
EDL refers to entry, descent and landing, known as the “seven minutes of terror” as the spacecraft enters the Martian atmosphere and slows down to enable a safe landing of the rover. That process is similar to what Curiosity used, but with some improvements.
One of those is the “range trigger,” said Allen Chen, the Mars 2020 EDL lead, during a Jan. 27 press briefing. “With range trigger, we’ve given Perseverance the ability to decide for herself when to deploy the parachute based on where she is,” he said, enabling a more precise landing.
The second is terrain relative navigation, giving the lander “eyes and a map,” he said. The spacecraft will use cameras to take images of the terrain as it descends and compare them to an onboard map. “Once she’s figured out where she is, she can fly to a safe spot nearby,” he said, further enhancing the precision of the landing.
Both technologies are essential, Chen said, for the mission to go to Jezero Crater. “When I look at it from a landing perspective, I see danger,” he said, such as steep cliffs, sand, boulders and impact craters. “If it wasn’t for range trigger and terrain relative navigation, we just could not go to Jezero.”
That location is enticing to scientists because it appears to have been a lake in the early history of the planet, and may contain evidence of past Martian life preserved in carbonate deposits left behind. “I much appreciate the efforts of the engineering team to get us to a dangerous landing site,” Ken Farley, Mars 2020 project scientist, said at the briefing. “It is a spectacular landing site.”
A key part of the mission will be to collect samples from Jezero Crater. Mars 2020 is the beginning of a broader Mars Sample Return program, where Perseverance will cache samples that will be collected and returned to Earth on two later missions launching no earlier than 2026.
That sample collection work won’t begin immediately. Farley said there it will take some time to check out the rover’s instruments, time that will also be used to perform flight tests of Ingenuity, a small helicopter that is hitching a ride on the rover. “All that’s going to take several months, during which science is not the primary focus of the mission,” he said. “As soon as we’re done with that phase, we are ready to go.”
Project scientists are also still developing the strategy for determining which samples to collect, given that the rover has only about three dozen sample collection tubes. Michael Meyer, the lead scientist for the Mars Exploration Program at NASA, said at the MEPAG meeting that 255 people participated in a caching strategy workshop last week, with a report on those plans due in mid-February.
The earliest those samples collected by Perseverance would be back on Earth in 2031, assuming the future Mars Sample Return missions launch on their current schedules, but Farley said it will be worth the wait.
“The samples will return to Earth some time in the 2030s,” he said. “They will be analyzed for decades after that. What that means is that the scientists who are presently on the Mars 2020 science team are unlikely to be the ones to analyze the same. The scientists who will analyze these samples are in school today. They might not even be born yet.”
First, though, Perseverance has to land on Mars. Chen said the mission team is finishing final checkouts of the lander’s EDL system, and then will perform a “cold boot” of its computer system to ensure it’s in the same condition as its counterparts on the ground used for testing. “We want to make sure that we fly the vehicle just like we test it,” he said.
Later updates will refine the lander’s trajectory and give the spacecraft more accurate information about its position. By the final week before landing, he added, “it’s all about making sure we’re all primed and in the best position to succeed, almost literally, for EDL.”
The landing activities will look a little different from past missions, which featured a packed mission control room at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory that erupted in celebrations after receiving word of successful landings. The ongoing pandemic, Chen said, means that there will be fewer people in the room, and with dividers and other protective equipment in place.
“We have to instigate those protective protocols to keep each other safe,” said Matt Wallace, deputy project manager for Mars 2020. “But assuming we do have confirmation of landing, I don’t think COVID is going to be able to stop us from jumping up and down and fist-bumping. You’re going to see a lot of happy people, no matter what, once we get this thing on the surface safely.”
NASA, AIAA Host Discussion on Mars Perseverance Rover Technology
The American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics (AIAA) and NASA will host a moderated webinar to discuss technology innovations with NASA’s Mars Perseverance rover during a virtual event at 10 a.m. EST Wednesday, Feb. 10. The event will livestream on NASA’s website and on YouTube through AIAA’s event landing page.
Perseverance is scheduled to land on Mars Thursday, Feb. 18, and is the largest and most sophisticated rover ever sent to the Red Planet’s surface. The robotic astrobiologist carries an array of cutting-edge technologies that will enable the most precise landing ever and help pave the way for future human missions to Mars.
At the landing site of Jezero Crater, Perseverance will seek signs of ancient life and demonstrate technologies for making oxygen from the Martian atmosphere, provide surface weather updates, and demonstrate the first controlled, powered flight on another planet with the Ingenuity helicopter.
During the webinar, NASA science, technology, and engineering experts involved with the mission will share more about how technology developments have enabled a return to Mars and will advance exploration of it in the future with both robots and astronauts.
Participating in the webinar are:
- Tory Bruno, CEO, United Launch Alliance
- Wanda Sigur, chair, National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine Space Technology Industry-Government-University Roundtable
- Wanda Peters, deputy associate administrator for programs, Science Mission Directorate, NASA Headquarters in Washington
- Trudy Kortes, director of technology demonstrations, Space Technology Mission Directorate, NASA Headquarters
- Bob Balaram, chief engineer, Ingenuity Mars helicopter, NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Southern California
The moderated session will involve questions from the webinar leader, as well as those who have registered for the event via Zoom. Participation in the Zoom event is limited to 1,000 people and is the only way to ask a direct question, via the chat function.
To register for the Zoom event, go to:
NASA collaborated on the event with AIAA, including guidance from industry and government members who advise on curriculum for the organization’s ASCEND events, which stands for Accelerating Space Commerce, Exploration, and New Discovery.
NASA Offers Opportunities for Media to Engage with Mars Perseverance Rover Landing
NASA will host virtual news briefings, live shows, and activities the week of Feb. 15 to discuss events surrounding the landing of its Mars 2020 Perseverance rover. Landing on the Red Planet will occur about 3:55 p.m. EST Thursday, Feb. 18. Live landing commentary will begin at 2:15 p.m. on NASA Television, the agency’s website, the NASA app, and YouTube.
Due to the ongoing coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, the focus will be on virtual opportunities for the media and public, with in-person opportunities onsite at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Southern California limited to members of the media who already have been credentialed.
Perseverance, which launched July 30, 2020, will search for signs of ancient microbial life, collect carefully selected rock and regolith (broken rock and dust) samples for future return to Earth, characterize Mars’ geology and climate, and pave the way for human exploration beyond the Moon. It is NASA’s fifth Mars rover and, if successful, will be the agency’s ninth Mars landing.
Perseverance also is carrying along a technology experiment – the Ingenuity Mars Helicopter – which will attempt the first powered, controlled flight on another planet.
News Briefing and Televised Event Schedule
News briefings will originate from JPL’s Von Karman Auditorium, but all media participation will be virtual. Members of the media who want to participate in any of the news conferences must contact Rexana Vizza (email@example.com) no later than one hour before each briefing’s start time to ask questions over a phone line. Members of the media and public also may ask questions on social media during the events using #CountdownToMars.
Tuesday, Feb. 16
1 p.m. – News conference: Mission Engineering and Technology Overview, featuring:Thomas Zurbuchen, NASA associate administrator for science, NASA Headquarters
- Jennifer Trosper, Perseverance deputy project manager, JPL
- Adam Steltzner, Perseverance chief engineer, JPL
- Erisa Stilley, Perseverance entry, descent, and landing systems engineer, JPL
- Trudy Kortes, director of technology demonstrations, NASA’s Space Technology Mission Directorate (STMD), NASA Headquarters
- Jeff Sheehy, chief engineer, STMD, NASA Headquarters
- MiMi Aung, Ingenuity project manager, JPL
3:30 p.m. – News conference: Mission Science Overview, featuring:
- Lori Glaze, director, NASA’s Planetary Science Division, NASA Headquarters
- Ken Williford, Perseverance deputy project scientist, JPL
- Katie Stack Morgan, Perseverance deputy project scientist, JPL
- Luther Beegle, principal investigator, Scanning Habitable Environments with Raman & Luminescence for Organics & Chemicals (SHERLOC) instrument, JPL
- Jim Bell, principal investigator, Mastcam-Z instrument, Arizona State University, Tempe
- Sylvestre Maurice, deputy principal investigator, SuperCam instrument, Institut de Recherche Astrophysique et Planétologie, Toulouse, France
Wednesday, Feb. 17
1 p.m. – News conference: Mission Landing Update, featuring:
- Lori Glaze, director, NASA’s Planetary Science Division, NASA Headquarters
- Matt Wallace, Perseverance deputy project manager, JPL
- Jennifer Trosper, Perseverance deputy project manager, JPL
- Allen Chen, Perseverance entry, descent, and landing lead, JPL
- Kaitlin Liles, deputy chief engineer, Mars Entry, Descent, and Landing Instrumentation 2 (MEDLI2) sensor suite, NASA’s Langley Research Center, Hampton, Virginia
- Ken Farley, Perseverance project scientist, Caltech, Pasadena, California
3 p.m. – News conference: Searching for Ancient Life at Mars and in Samples Returned to Earth, featuring:
- Thomas Zurbuchen, NASA associate administrator for science, NASA Headquarters
- Bobby Braun, Mars Sample Return program manager, JPL
- David Parker, director of human and robotic exploration, ESA’s European Space Research and Technology Centre (ESTEC), Netherlands
- Mary Voytek, director of NASA’s astrobiology program, NASA Headquarters
- Ken Williford, Perseverance deputy project scientist, JPL
- Libby Hausrath, participating scientist for returned sample science, University of Nevada Las Vegas
Thursday, Feb. 18
2:15 p.m. – Live landing commentary on the NASA TV Public Channel and the agency’s website, as well as the NASA App, YouTube, Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitch, Daily Motion, and THETA.TV.
In addition, an uninterrupted clean feed of cameras from inside JPL Mission Control, with mission audio only, will be available at 2 p.m. EST on the NASA TV Media Channel and at the JPLraw YouTube channel.
A 360-degree livestream of the Mars landing from inside mission control, including landing commentary, will be available at the NASA-JPL YouTube channel.
2:30 p.m. – “Juntos Perseveramos,” the live Spanish-language landing commentary show, on NASA en Español’s YouTube channel.
About 3:55 p.m. – Expected time of Perseverance touchdown on Mars
No earlier than 5:30 p.m. – Post-landing news conference originating from Von Karman Auditorium
Friday, Feb. 19
1 p.m. – News conference: Mission status update
Monday, Feb. 22
2 p.m. – News conference: Mission status update
To watch news conferences and commentary online, visit:
A complete list of ways to watch online can be found at:
Live shots and remote live interviews via Zoom will be offered from 4 to 7 p.m. EST Wednesday, Feb. 17, and 6 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. EST Thursday, Feb. 18.
To book a live shot window, media should complete and submit the form at: https://forms.gle/afTsM9PwHfbgZebX9.
Interview requests outside of those windows can be arranged by filling out the form at: https://bit.ly/mars-landing-media or by calling JPL’s Digital News and Media Office at: 818-354-5011.
A Perseverance landing toolkit provides additional details about all the activities planned for landing week, as well as additional links for learning more about the rover and helicopter.