Perseverance, NASA’s most sophisticated rover to date, is expected to land on the surface of Mars on Thursday, February 18, around 3:55 p.m. ET.
The rover has been traveling through space since launching from Cape Canaveral, Florida, at the end of July. When it reaches Mars, Perseverance will have traveled 292.5 million miles on its journey from Earth.
Perseverance is NASA’s first mission that will search for signs of ancient life on another planet to help answer the big question: Was life ever present on Mars? The rover will explore Jezero Crater, the site of an ancient lake that existed 3.9 billion years ago, and search for microfossils in the rocks and soil there.
Along for the ride with Perseverance is an experiment to fly a helicopter, called Ingenuity, on another planet for the first time.
Here’s what to expect this week.
How to watch
Unfortunately, we can’t watch the SUV-size rover land on the surface of Mars — we’re just not there yet, technologically speaking.
But NASA is inviting the world to tune in to its countdown and landing commentary, which will stream live beginning on Thursday at 2:15 p.m. ET. Tune in via NASA’s public TV channel, website, app, YouTube, Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitch, Daily Motion or THETA.TV. In a first, the agency will also offer a Spanish language show for the landing.
During the landing coverage, NASA’s mission control team will be able to confirm if the rover safely landed on the surface of Mars.
Naturally, the rover has its own Twitter and Facebook accounts, where you can expect updates from the mission team from the perspective of the rover. And you can bet the Curiosity rover and InSight lander will be welcoming Perseverance to their home, the red planet.
The agency has fun ways to participate in the countdown excitement, like photo booths and activities for kids and students. You can also follow every step of the rover’s landing through a NASA interactive or sign up for a virtual experience of the landing.
“If there’s one thing we know, it’s that landing on Mars is never easy,” said Marc Etkind, NASA associate administrator for communications, in a statement. “But as NASA’s fifth Mars rover, Perseverance has an extraordinary engineering pedigree and mission team.”
Just weeks after the landing, if all goes according to plan, cameras and microphones on the spacecraft will show the rover’s perspective for the first time.
Landing on Mars: ‘7 minutes of terror’
If successful, Perseverance will be NASA’s ninth landing on Mars. First, it has to go through the infamous “seven minutes of terror.”
The one-way time it takes for radio signals to travel from Earth to Mars is about 10.5 minutes, which means the seven minutes it takes for the spacecraft to land on Mars will occur without any help or intervention from NASA teams on Earth.
The ground teams tell the spacecraft when to begin EDL (entry, descent and landing) and the spacecraft takes over from there — and mission control begins an agonizing wait.
This rover is the heaviest NASA has ever attempted to land, weighing in at over a metric ton.
The spacecraft hits the top of the Martian atmosphere moving at 12,000 miles per hour and has to slow down to zero miles per hour seven minutes later when the rover softly lands on the surface.
The spacecraft’s heat shield will endure peak heating of 2,370 degrees Fahrenheit, 75 seconds after entering the atmosphere.
Perseverance is targeting a 28-mile-wide ancient lake bed and river delta, the most challenging site yet for a NASA spacecraft landing on Mars. Rather than being flat and smooth, the small landing site is littered with sand dunes, steep cliffs, boulders and small craters. The spacecraft has two upgrades — called Range Trigger and Terrain-Relative Navigation — to navigate this difficult and hazardous site.
Range Trigger will tell the 70.5-foot-wide parachute when to deploy based on the spacecraft’s position 240 seconds after entering the atmosphere. After the parachute deploys, the heat shield will detach.
The rover’s Terrain-Relative Navigation acts like a second brain, using cameras to take pictures of the ground as it rapidly approaches and determines the safest spot to land. It can shift the landing spot by up to 2,000 feet, according to NASA.
The back shell and parachute separate after the heat shield is discarded — that will happen when the spacecraft is 1.3 miles above the Martian surface. The 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 famed sky crane maneuver that landed the Curiosity rover will occur. Nylon cords will lower the rover 25 feet below the descent stage. After the rover touches down on the Martian surface, the cords will detach and the descent stage will fly away and land at a safe distance.
The mission: What the rover will do
Once the rover has landed, Perseverance’s two-year mission will begin. First, it will go through a “checkout” period to make sure it’s ready.
Perseverance will search for evidence of ancient life and study Mars’ climate and geology and collect samples that will eventually be returned to Earth by the 2030s.
For that reason, Perseverance is also the cleanest machine ever sent to Mars, designed so it doesn’t contaminate the Martian samples with any microbes from Earth that could provide a false reading.
Jezero Crater was chosen as Perseverance’s home because billions of years ago, the basin was the site of a lake and river delta. Rocks and dirt from this basin could provide fossilized evidence of past microbial life, as well as more information about what ancient Mars was like.
“Perseverance’s sophisticated science instruments will not only help in the hunt for fossilized microbial life, but also expand our knowledge of Martian geology and its past, present, and future,” said Ken Farley, project scientist for Mars 2020, in a statement.
The path Perseverance will traverse is about 15 miles long, an “epic journey” that will take years, Farley said. What scientists could discover about Mars, though, is worth the journey. To accomplish its goals, Perseverance will drive a little less than 0.1-miles per hour, three times faster than previous rovers.
Perseverance also carries instruments that could help further exploration on Mars in the future, like MOXIE, the Mars Oxygen In-Situ Resource Utilization Experiment. This experiment, about the size of a car battery, will attempt to convert Martian carbon dioxide into oxygen.
Not only could this help NASA scientists learn how to produce rocket fuel on Mars, but also oxygen that could be used during future human exploration of the red planet.
Ingenuity, the first helicopter on another planet
Perseverance isn’t traveling to Mars by itself. Along for the ride is Ingenuity, which will be the first helicopter to fly on another planet.
After landing, the rover will also find a nice, flat surface to drop the Ingenuity helicopter so it has a place to use as a helipad for its potential five test flights during a 30-day period. This will occur within the first 50 to 90 sols, or Martian days, of the mission.
Once Ingenuity is settled on the surface, Perseverance will drive to a safe spot at a distance and use its cameras to watch Ingenuity’s flight.
Ingenuity weighs only 4 pounds and features four carbon-fiber blades, solar cells and batteries.
Mars has an incredibly thin atmosphere, so the design for Ingenuity had to be lightweight, while including larger and faster rotors than those of typical helicopters on Earth to get it up in the air.
If Ingenuity is successful, it could pave the way for more advanced robotic aircraft to be used on future missions to Mars, both robotic and human, according to NASA.
Lambton public health warns of COVID-19 vaccine scams – The Beacon Herald
Public health officials are cautioning residents to be wary of COVID-19 vaccine-related scams circulating throughout the Sarnia area.
Public health officials are cautioning residents to be wary of COVID-19 vaccine-related scams circulating throughout the Sarnia area.
Lambton public health officials said Friday they’ve heard “several reports” of seniors being contacted since the local online booking system and call centre opened Thursday to residents age 90 and older.
Donna Schmidtmeyer, the health unit’s supervisor of health promotion, said they don’t charge fees to register or to get the vaccine.
“We will not ask you for any financial information whatsoever,” she said in a statement. “And, unless you have called (public health) to pre-register for the vaccine directly or signed up for the pre-registration using our online platform, no one should contact you and ask for any personal information.”
The health unit urged people to check the source of COVID-19 information they’re receiving.
“If you’re unsure or your gut is telling you something is off, it probably is,” the health unit said.
People are encouraged to call Lambton public health at 519-383-8331 for accurate information.
The warning came amid the province releasing details Friday on the second phase of its vaccine distribution plan. A larger list of Ontarians – people between the ages of 60 and 79 and those with specific health conditions or who can’t work from home – will be included as officials aim to vaccinate nine-million residents between April and July.
More than 4,300 doses of the COVID-19 vaccine have been distributed to Sarnia-area residents – mainly into the arms of seniors and front-line health-care workers and caregivers – as of Wednesday. That figure is expected to climb as fixed-site clinics and mobile teams continue to distribute doses.
The number of COVID-19 cases also climbed Friday, with 122 considered active – nearly double from two days ago – while the overall caseload climbed 24 to 2,187.
A recent spread of the virus at Kettle and Stony Point has contributed to the sudden spike as the community had 26 active cases as of Thursday. Lambton public health’s top medical official said they’re working closely with the First Nation to trace close contacts and to set up a vaccine clinic there.
But a health unit spokesperson said Friday via email the situation is not officially classified as an outbreak. An emergency shelter, the jail, a retirement home and a long-term care facility in Sarnia as well as an unidentified local business and a retirement home in Lambton Shores were all dealing with official outbreaks. The number of cases connected to those facilities has held steady in recent days.
Eight Lambton Kent District and five St. Clair Catholic District school board schools had at least one case linked to them Friday, but they were all still open.
Ontario said Friday it will shift some health units to different colours in its colour-coded restriction system starting next week, but Lambton will stay in red.
Mars rover travels 6.5 metres in ‘flawless’ first drive – Al Jazeera English
Perseverance rover can travel 200 metres a day, but scientists need to conduct tests and safety checks before it ventures further.
NASA’s Mars rover Perseverance has taken its first, short drive on the surface of the red planet, two weeks after the robot science lab’s picture-perfect touchdown on the floor of an enormous crater, mission managers said on Friday.
The Perseverance rover first ventured from its landing position Thursday, two weeks after landing on the Red Planet to seek signs of past life.
Taking directions from mission managers at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) near Los Angeles, the rover rolled four metres (13.1 feet) forward, turned about 150 degrees to its left and then drove backwards another 2.5 meters (8.2 feet) for a total of 6.5 metres (21.3 feet) during its half-hour test within Jezero Crater, site of an ancient, long-vanished lake bed and river delta on Mars.
“It went incredibly well,” Anais Zarifian, a JPL mobility test engineer for Perseverance, said during a teleconference briefing with reporters, calling it a “huge milestone” for the mission.
The roundabout, back and forth drive lasted just 33 minutes and went so well that the six-wheeled rover was back on the move Friday.
Perseverance is capable of averaging 200 metres of driving a day.
NASA displayed a photo taken by the rover showing the wheel tread marks left in the reddish, sandy Martian soil after its first drive.
Another vivid image of the surrounding landscape shows a rugged, ruddy terrain littered with large, dark boulders in the foreground and a tall outcropping of rocky, layered deposits in the distance – marking the edge of the river delta.
I’m on the move! Just took my first test drive on Mars, covering about 16 feet (5 meters). You’re looking at the very beginning of my wheel tracks. Many more to make. pic.twitter.com/7tFIwWFfJ4
— NASA’s Perseverance Mars Rover (@NASAPersevere) March 5, 2021
So far, Perseverance and its hardware, including its main robot arm, appear to be operating flawlessly, according to Robert Hogg, deputy mission manager.
But JPL engineers still have additional equipment checks to run on the rover’s many instruments before they will be ready to send the robot on a more ambitious journey as part of its primary mission to search for traces of fossilised microbial life.
The team has yet to conduct post-landing tests of the rover’s sophisticated system to drill and collect rock samples for return to Earth via future Mars missions.
As soon as the system checks on Perseverance are complete, the rover will head for an ancient river delta to collect rocks for return to Earth a decade from now.
Scientists are debating whether to take the smoother route to get to the nearby delta or a possibly tougher way with intriguing remnants from that once-watery time three to four billion years ago.
NASA's Perseverance rover makes 1st test drive on Mars – CBC.ca
NASA’s newest Mars rover hit the dusty red road this week, putting 6.5 metres on the odometer in its first test drive.
The Perseverance rover ventured from its landing position Thursday, two weeks after landing on the Red Planet to seek signs of past life.
The roundabout, back-and-forth drive lasted 33 minutes and went so well that more driving was on tap Friday and Saturday for the six-wheeled rover.
“This is really the start of our journey here,” said Rich Rieber, the NASA engineer who plotted the route. “This is going to be like the Odyssey, adventures along the way, hopefully no Cyclops, and I’m sure there will be stories aplenty written about it.”
In its first drive, Perseverance went forward four metres, took a 150-degree left turn, then backed up 2.5 metres. During a news conference Friday, NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif., shared photos of its tracks over and around small rocks.
News from Mars: <a href=”https://twitter.com/NASAPersevere?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw”>@NASAPersevere</a>’s team has tested its robotic arm, checked science instruments, & taken the rover on its first drive. Mission scientists have named its touchdown site “Octavia E. Butler Landing,” in honor of the late science fiction author: <a href=”https://t.co/jcyr3ZZDGz”>https://t.co/jcyr3ZZDGz</a> <a href=”https://t.co/5xsQnxdjE3″>pic.twitter.com/5xsQnxdjE3</a>
“I don’t think I’ve ever been happier to see wheel tracks and I’ve seen a lot of them,” said engineer Anais Zarafian. “This is just a huge milestone for the mission.”
Flight controllers are still checking all of Perseverance’s systems. So far, everything is looking good. The rover’s two-metre robot arm, for instance, flexed its muscles for the first time Tuesday.
Before the car-size rover can head for an ancient river delta to collect rocks for eventual return to Earth, it must drop its so-called protective “belly pan” and release an experimental helicopter named Ingenuity.
As it turns out, Perseverance landed right on the edge of a potential helicopter landing strip — a nice, flat spot, according to Rieber. So the plan is to drive out of this landing strip, ditch the pan, then return for Ingenuity’s highly anticipated test flight. All this should be accomplished by late spring.
WATCH | NASA videos show Perseverance landing on Mars:
Scientists are debating whether to take the smoother route to get to the nearby delta or a possibly tougher way with intriguing remnants from that once-watery time three billion to four billion years ago.
Perseverance — NASA’s biggest and most elaborate rover yet — became the ninth U.S. spacecraft to successfully land on Mars on Feb. 18. China hopes to land its smaller rover — currently orbiting the red planet — in another few months.
NASA scientists, meanwhile, announced Friday that they’ve named Perseverance’s touchdown site in honour of the late science fiction writer Octavia E. Butler, who grew up next door to JPL in Pasadena. She was one of the first Black people to receive mainstream attention for science fiction. Her works included Bloodchild and Other Stories and Parable of the Sower.
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