NASA’s subsequent Mars rover, Perseverance, may have a squad of spacecraft watching its dangerous descent from above Thursday (Feb. 18).
At least 4 orbiters from NASA and its European counterpart will help the touchdown, and a few of these spacecraft will proceed to ship information again from Perseverance throughout the rover’s adventures on the floor of the Red Planet.
The European Space Agency runs two spacecraft that can watch the touchdown. The ESA-Roscosmos ExoMars Trace Gas Orbiter (TGO) will ship information again to Earth as early as 4 hours after touchdown, ESA said in a release, whereas the company’s Mars Express has targeted on native situations on the touchdown web site, Jezero Crater, and supplied that data to NASA throughout preparations for tomorrow’s descent. TGO will even attempt to picture Perseverance on the floor within the weeks after touchdown.
Related: How to watch NASA’s Perseverance rover land on Mars
Perseverance rover’s Mars touchdown: Everything you need to know
Book of Mars: $22.99 at Magazines Direct
Within 148 pages, discover the mysteries of Mars. With the newest era of rovers, landers and orbiters heading to the Red Planet, we’re discovering much more of this world’s secrets and techniques than ever earlier than. Find out about its panorama and formation, uncover the reality about water on Mars and the seek for life, and discover the chance that the fourth rock from the solar might in the future be our subsequent dwelling.View Deal
NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO), which incessantly acts as a relay for lander radio communications, will probably be simply overhead throughout Perseverance’s touchdown. MRO’s objective is to choose up data from the rover after which ship it again to NASA’s Deep Space Network of antennas on Earth so NASA can verify the touchdown, which is schedule to happen round 3:55 p.m. EST (2055 GMT).
“MRO has been newly configured to send telemetry to Earth throughout the landing timeline in 5-second packets, with about a 16-second latency [delay],” NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in California said in a statement. “The DSN’s antenna complex near Madrid, Spain, will be lead during entry, descent, and landing, with the complex in Goldstone, California, providing support.”
NASA will possible additionally attempt to images Perseverance and its actions on the floor; again in 2012, it even managed to catch the Curiosity rover landing on the surface underneath a parachute.
NASA all the time likes backup data, so it’ll additionally press its Mars Atmosphere and Volatile Evolution (MAVEN) orbiter into service. MAVEN often would not ship data again from floor spacecraft, as a result of information the spacecraft receives is distributed after a delay and requires extra processing. But MAVEN’s observations will probably be helpful to assemble extra details about Perseverance’s descent and ought to be accessible about 10 hours after touchdown, in accordance with JPL.
NASA has already relocated MAVEN to help Perseverance, and MRO might observe go well with. Last 12 months, in preparation to help Perseverance, MAVEN diminished its highest orbital altitude by aerobraking (gently pushing towards the Martian ambiance) and altered its orbital orientation as effectively, NASA’s Mars website stated in late January.
NASA may additionally change MRO’s orbit, partly as a result of the spacecraft (which arrived at Mars almost 15 Earth years in the past) is ageing and the company needs to lengthen the lifetime of MRO’s batteries till a brand new orbiter can take its place for relay communications.
Currently, the spacecraft resides in a sun-synchronous orbit with constant mid-afternoon lighting situations under, which is sweet for orbital imagery. NASA might change the spacecraft’s orbit to cross the floor a bit of later within the day, to cut back how a lot time the spacecraft spends in shadow and depends on its batteries, SpaceNews said in late January.
L3Harris, an aerospace expertise contractor that supplied one in every of Perseverance’s antennas, mentioned in an announcement that the rover’s communication with orbiters takes solely a few millisecond to realize, and that utilizing the orbiters as waystations for data permits for extra information switch as a result of the orbiters are a bit of nearer to Earth antennas than Perseverance.
The rover can ship as much as 2 megabits of knowledge per second to the orbiters. “Because the rover and orbiter antennas are within close range of each other, it is like using walkie-talkies or a cell phone talking to the cell tower,” L3Harris said.
The rover can also ship indicators again to Earth immediately, though the knowledge will probably be despatched in tones or a service sign — that means easy indicators with little to no engineering information connected, in accordance with the JPL release. The great things, throughout each touchdown and operations, will come by way of the orbiters.
Follow Elizabeth Howell on Twitter @howellspace. Follow us on Twitter @Spacedotcom and on Facebook.