“The mission has 314 million miles of interplanetary space and seven minutes of terror to safely land on the surface of Mars,” Lori Glaze, director of NASA’s planetary science division, said in a statement. “When we see the landscape at Jezero Crater for the first time and we really start to realize the scientific reward that lies ahead, the fun really begins.”
Perseverance and the Ingenuity helicopter are securely enclosed inside an aerosol protective capsule. The descent stage that will help unload the rover is also on this aerosol, which is attached to the cruise stage, or the mission spacecraft.
The cruise phase is disk-shaped and solar-powered. It will travel more than 300 million miles to reach Mars.
As it navigates to Mars, engineers on Earth will tell the spacecraft when corrective maneuvers will have to be performed to keep it on the right path to Mars, as well as its landing target. The ground team will also perform controls on the spacecraft’s instruments and subsystems.
About 45 days before landing on Mars, the spacecraft will enter the approach phase, with more corrective maneuvers in its trajectory.
While we look forward to a leisurely trip to Mars, Perseverance crews will prepare and train for when the rover lands on Mars. The scientific team will prepare the instructions you want to send to the rover while using its instruments on Mars.
Rover pilots will also work with a model of the rover on Earth to prepare for Perseverance’s journey across the Martian surface.
This includes using a Perseverance on Earth twin to test the hardware, drive it through the Mars Yard of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, and make sure the navigation algorithms automatic work, said Heather Justice, the robotic downhill lead operation and one of the pilots shot at JPL.
“Seven minutes of terror”
The one-time light time it takes for radio signals to travel from Earth to Mars is about 10.5 minutes, which means that the seven minutes it takes to land on Mars on the spacecraft will occur. without the help or intervention of NASA teams on Earth.
NASA team members refer to this as the “seven minutes of terror.” They tell the spacecraft when to start the EDL, (entry, descent, and landing), and the spacecraft takes over from there.
The spacecraft reaches the top of the Martian atmosphere moving at 12,000 miles per hour and must slow to zero miles per hour seven minutes later when the rover lands on the surface gently.
Approximately 10 minutes before entering the Martian fine atmosphere, the cruise stage pours in and the spacecraft prepares for a guided entry, where small aerosol propellants help its angle.
The spacecraft’s heat shield will withstand a maximum warming of 2,370 degrees Fahrenheit 75 seconds after entering the atmosphere.
Perseverance is aimed at an ancient lake bed and a 28-mile-wide river delta, the most difficult place yet for a NASA spacecraft landing on Mars. Instead of being flat and smooth, the small landing site is filled with dunes, steep cliffs, pebbles, and small craters.
The spacecraft has two new features – called Range Trigger and Terrain-Relative Navigation – to navigate this difficult and dangerous place.
Range Trigger will indicate the 70.5-foot-wide parachute when deployed based on the position of the spacecraft 240 seconds after entering the atmosphere. After the parachute is deployed, the heat shield will come off.
Terrain navigation acts as a second brain for the rover, using cameras to quickly approach and determine the safest place to land. It can change the landing point up to 2,000 feet, according to NASA.
The rear shell and parachute separate after the heat shield is discarded when the spacecraft is 1.3 miles above the Martian surface. Mars ’landing engines, which include eight retrorockets, will fire to slow the descent from 190 miles per hour to about 1.7 miles per hour.
Then, the famous cell crane maneuver that landed the Curiosity rover will take place. The nylon cords will lower the steering wheel 25 meters below the descent phase. After the rover touches the Martian surface, the cords will separate and the descent stage will fly and land at a safe distance.
On the surface of Mars
Once the rover has landed, the Perseverance mission will begin two years and go through a “checkout” period to make sure it’s ready.
The rover will deploy the mast and antenna, perform a landing image, perform a “sanitary check” of its instruments, test the movement and “flex” the arm, and perform a short test. Perseverance will also release the belly that provided a safe haven for the Ingenuity helicopter that stayed there during the cruise and landing.
The rover will also find a flat, nice surface to drop the Ingenuity helicopter, so it has a place to use it as a helicopter for its own five test flights over a 30-day period. This will occur in the first 50 to 90 suns, or Martian days, of the mission.
Once Ingenuity is established on the surface, Perseverance will head to a safe place remotely and use its cameras to see Ingenuity’s flight.
After these flights, Perseverance will begin searching for evidence of ancient life, studying the climate and geology of Mars, and collecting samples that will eventually be returned to Earth through future planned missions.