Seven months after blast-off, NASA’s Mars 2020 mission should negotiate its shortest and most intense section on Thursday: the “seven minutes of terror” it takes to slam the brakes and land the Perseverance rover on a slim goal on the planet’s floor.
Entry, Descent, and Landing (EDL) begins when the spacecraft carrying Perseverance strikes the Martian environment at almost 12,500 miles per hour (20,000 kilometers per hour).
It ends round seven minutes later with the rover at relaxation on the floor.
Touchdown on the Jezero Crater is scheduled for 3:55 pm US japanese time (2055 GMT). Weather situations to date seem favorable within the Martian northern hemisphere spring, however nothing is taken as a right.
“This is one of the most difficult maneuvers that we do in this business, and almost 50 percent of the spacecraft that had been sent to the surface of Mars have failed,” Matt Wallace, the mission’s deputy undertaking supervisor mentioned.
Ten minutes earlier than getting into the Martian environment, the spacecraft sheds its cruise stage that provided the gasoline tanks, radios and photo voltaic panels on the voyage.
It’s left with only a protecting aeroshell, carrying the rover and descent stage, and it fires thrusters to verify its warmth defend is ahead going through.
At about 80 miles (130 kilometers) altitude, it careens into the environment and issues begin to get scorching: peak heating happens about 80 seconds in when the warmth defend floor reaches 2,370 levels Fahrenheit (about 1,300 levels Celsius).
Perseverance is tucked away safely within the aeroshell, solely experiencing room temperature.
The craft would possibly want to fireside thrusters to remain on the right track because it hits air pockets.
Once the spacecraft has slowed right down to lower than 1,000 miles (1,600 kilometers) an hour, it is time to deploy the 70.5 toes (21.5 meters) huge supersonic parachute at an altitude of seven miles (11 kilometers).
Perseverance is deploying a brand new expertise referred to as Range Trigger that decides the exact second to deploy, based mostly on the craft’s place relative to the touchdown web site.
Asked to call the only most crucial occasion, NASA’s EDL lead Allen Chen mentioned: “Obviously there’s a lot of concentrated risk in supersonic parachute opening.”
To check out its new design, NASA needed to perform in depth supersonic parachute testing from excessive altitudes right here on Earth, a discipline of analysis that had been dormant because the 1970s.
Heat defend separation
Next, the spacecraft jettisons its warmth defend, round 20 seconds after the parachute has been deployed. The rover is uncovered to the environment for the primary time, and makes use of a touchdown radar to bounce indicators off the floor and calculate its exact altitude.
The mission will even see one other expertise deployed for the primary time: the “Terrain Relative Navigation” (TRN) system that makes use of a particular digicam to determine floor options and examine them to an onboard map the place engineers pre-programmed the most secure touchdown websites.
“That gives our vehicle eyes, and the ability to really see where she’s going and figure out where she is,” mentioned Chen.
In the skinny environment of Mars, the parachute will solely get the automobile right down to 200 miles (300 kilometers) per hour — so Perseverance has to chop the chute free, dispense with its again shell, and use rocket thrusters to ease itself down.
It does this utilizing an eight-engined jetpack that is put in immediately above the rover and fires up at round 6,900 toes (2100 meters) above the floor.
The automobile has to tilt instantly in an effort to keep away from the falling parachute and again shell, then makes use of its refined techniques to proceed its descent.
With 12 seconds to go, at a peak of 66 toes (20 meters), the rocket-powered descent stage lowers the rover right down to the bottom utilizing lengthy cables in a maneuver referred to as “skycrane.”
The rover locks its legs and wheels right into a touchdown place and touches the bottom at rather less than two miles (1.2 kilometers) an hour, because the descent stage flies off and makes its personal managed touchdown.
Perseverance is now set for its mission as Earth’s fifth rover on Mars.
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