NASA’s Mars 2020 Perseverance rover mission: Live updates

August 22, 2020
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NASA’s Mars 2020 Perseverance rover lifted off successfully today, July 30, at 7:50 a.m. EDT (1150 GMT) aboard a United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket from Space Launch Complex 41 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida.

The rover will take about seven months to travel to the Red Planet and, on Feb. 18, 2021, will land in Mars’ Jezero Crater to search for signs of life, explore the planet’s geology and much more.

July 30, NASA’s Mars 2020 Perseverance rover successfully lifted off from Earth, bound for the Red Planet, where it is set to land Feb. 18, 2021. Of the many people excited to see the rover lift off, two teenagers watching the launch in Florida had a special connection. These two teens actually named the rover and its onboard helicopter.

Alex Mather, a 7th-grade student from Virginia, and Vaneeza Rupani, a high-school senior from Alabama, named the Perseverance rover and the helicopter Ingenuity, respectively.

Since NASA’s Mars 2020 Perseverance rover launched to the Red Planet July 30, both a weather satellite and a robotic telescope have spotted the craft on its way to its dusty destination.

The weather satellite GOES-16 spotted the smoke plume coming from the Florida launch and The Virtual Telescope Project spied the booster from the Atlas V rocket which launched the rover-holding spacecraft.

NASA’s Mars rover Perseverance, which went into a protective “safe mode” shortly after its launch yesterday, is back to normal operations and cruising toward the Red Planet.

In an announcement today, July 31, NASA officials reported that Perseverance is healthy and out of “safe mode” following a temperature variance that prompted the rover’s onboard computer to enter the protective state. The spacecraft got a bit colder than expected when it zoomed through Earth’s shadow.

“With safe mode exit, the team is getting down to the business of interplanetary cruise,” Mars 2020 deputy project manager Matt Wallace, of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, said in an update. “Next stop, Jezero Crater.”

“First, the proximity of the spacecraft to Earth immediately after launch was saturating the ground station receivers of NASA’s Deep Space Network. This is a known issue that we have encountered on other planetary missions, including during the launch of NASA’s Curiosity rover in 2011. The Perseverance team worked through prepared mitigation strategies that included detuning the receivers and pointing the antennas slightly off-target from the spacecraft to bring the signal within an acceptable range. We are now in lock on telemetry after taking these actions.

“The second issue was a transient event involving temperature on the spacecraft. The mission uses a liquid freon loop to bring heat from the center of the spacecraft to radiators on the cruise stage (the part that helps fly the rover to Mars), which have a view to space. We monitor the difference in temperature between the warm inlet to the radiators and the cooler outlet from the radiators. As the spacecraft entered into Earth’s shadow, the Sun was temporary blocked by Earth, and the outlet temperature dropped. This caused the difference between the warm inlet and cooler outlet to increase. This transient differential tripped an alarm and caused the spacecraft to transition into the standby mode known as ‘safe mode.’

“Modeling by the team predicted something like this could happen during eclipse – the time when the spacecraft is in Earth’s shadow – but we could not create this exact environment for tests prior to launch. Nor did we have flight data from Curiosity, because its trajectory had no eclipse. We set the limits for the temperature differential conservatively tight for triggering a safe mode. The philosophy is that it is far better to trigger a safe mode event when not required, than miss one that is. Safe mode is a stable and acceptable mode for the spacecraft, and triggering safe mode during this transitional phase is not problematic for Mars 2020.

“With the understanding of the causes of these issues, we are conducting the operations necessary to move the spacecraft back out of safe mode and into normal cruise mode.”

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