March 1, 2021

This was the landing of ‘Perseverance’ on Mars


NASA has published this Monday the images, recorded by the spacecraft itself, of the landing of ‘Perseverance’ on Mars. After six months of travel and millions of kilometers, the probe reached the red planet last Thursday. It did so after some complicated maneuvers that ranged from entering the atmosphere of Mars to landing on the surface. That was the critical point of the mission: to decelerate the spacecraft from 19,300 km / hour until it settled smoothly at a speed of 2 km / hour. They were what have become popularly known as “seven minutes of terror.” And NASA engineers recorded them with various cameras placed on the various modules of the spacecraft.

'Perseverance' manages to reach Mars in search of traces of life

‘Perseverance’ manages to reach Mars in search of traces of life

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The enormous distance that separates Mars from Earth made a controlled landing direct from NASA impossible. Although communications travel at the speed of light, it takes 11 minutes and 21 seconds for the signal sent from the red planet to reach us. For this reason, the space agency engineers automated the process, adjusting a series of parameters hours before landing.

The maneuver, known as EDL (Entry, Descent and Landing -Entrance, descent and landing-) was highly complex. Upon entering the Martian atmosphere, the capsule reached its maximum speed. Guiding thrusters balanced it and secured its orientation to land at the expected location, in the Jezero crater. 57 kilometers from the surface, the spacecraft’s heat shield reaches a temperature of 1,500ºC. It is then that the atmosphere gradually thickens and the speed decreases. After readjusting the orientation with a loading mechanism, having already arrived at about 12 kilometers from the planet, the parachute was deployed, considerably reducing its speed. Just a minute and a half from landing, the TRN instruments came into operation, a new system that, through artificial intelligence, calculates the ideal place to perch. Then, as seen in the images, it was the turn of the skycrane crane, on which the rover is attached. After separating from the capsule, about 2 kilometers from the surface, the crane and the rover descend in free fall. It is then when four pairs of rockets were activated that stabilized the fall and directed to the ship to the place selected by the TRN. At 20 meters, the skycrane descended into the rover using cables. And the Perserverance reached its destination. Small pyrotechnic charges placed on the cables separated the crane from the rover and the skycrane, it began a bank flight until it crashed.

It is the largest and most sophisticated vehicle that has ever been sent to land on another planet. ‘Perseverance’ took off on July 30, 2020 with the aim of finding evidence of ancient microbial life on the neighboring planet, especially in rocks known for their ability to preserve biological remains for a long time. It also seeks to explore and sample a novel environment. You will collect fragments of the ground with the intention of bringing them back to Earth on future missions, and you will analyze the geology, climate, and habitable conditions of the planet to prepare the way for future explorations.

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