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Perseverance saw its own descent stage crash – EarthSky

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The Mars rover Perseverance captured a photo on February 18, 2021, of its own descent stage crashing onto Mars’ surface and triggering a plume of smoke. Image via NASA.

One of the coolest shots we’ve seen from Perseverance on Mars so far came from the day of its successful landing, February 18, 2021. Minutes after landing, Perseverance managed to look off into the distance and capture an image of its own descent stage crash landing on Mars’ surface.

What’s the descent stage? Its role in Perseverance’s landing was brief, but vital. The descent stage is the rocket-powered section that deployed after the parachute. It was needed in part because Mars’ atmosphere is so thin that parachutes alone can’t guarantee a soft-enough landing. The descent stage kept the rover steady just above Mars’ surface, as the rover was deployed to Mars’ surface via cables. The descent stage wasn’t designed to land safely. After deploying the rover, it flew some distance off and crashed itself. That’s what Perseverance captured in this image.

Perseverance is busy on Mars examining its environs and recording all that it sees. It reports its findings with an anthropomorphized – and adorable – Twitter account @NASAPersevere. Its tweet about the descent stage crash landing was one of its first.

Diagram of stages of rover's descent through Mars' atmosphere to the surface.

Artist’s concept illustrating Perseverance’s landing on Mars, via NASA.

As you may have heard by now – or realized yourself – Mars is the only planet we know that’s populated by robots! A total of 18 spacecraft have been put in orbit around Mars, eight of which are still operating. Of the Mars’ rovers sent to Mars’s surface, five are still operational: Sojourner, Spirit and Opportunity, Curiosity, and Perseverance.

One Mars orbiter, the European Space Agency’s ExoMars Trace Gas Orbiter, also captured Perseverance on Mars’ surface, at its landing spot. It managed to find the rover and the pieces shed on descent, then tweeted an image:

The rover is near the bottom center of the image, with the heat shield a dark circular spot in the upper right, the descent stage to the left (and in the plume photo above), and the white parachute and back shell bright on the surface at far left. You can see from the overhead view the large ridge between the rover and the descent stage that the rover is looking toward in the top image.

Since 1960, nine countries have sent missions either to orbit Mars or attempt to land on its surface, and many of them have crashed and burned, quite literally.

February 2021 saw three missions successfully make it to Mars, both in orbit and on the surface. Perseverance was one. The other two were the UAE’s Hope mission and China’s Tianwen-1.

Graphic showing Mars and over 20 missions with successes and failures.

Many spacecraft have tried to land on Mars but few have succeeded. Image via Al Jazeera.

Bottom line: NASA’s Mars rover Perseverance tweeted a photo of the resulting plume of smoke from the impact of the descent stage.

Kelly Kizer Whitt

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To help chart the cosmos, Western space researchers turn to crowd sourcing – CBC.ca

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Western University researchers have tapped the help of hundreds of amateur and professional astronomers in an effort to make sure no meteor is unable to slip by the Earth undetected.

To do that, they’re relying on the observations taken from 450 cameras in 30 different countries manned by “enthusiastic amateur astronomers” made up of professional and citizen scientists.

That data is then sent to Western University as part of what’s called the Global Meteor Network (GMN), headed by Denis Vida.

“So we have a lot of enthusiastic amateur astronomers, citizen scientists and also professionals that build, operate and maintain these cameras,” Vida told CBC’s Chris dela Torre during Afternoon Drive. “And every night they inspect the data set and send their data to a central server here at the University of Western Ontario.”

It’s not just about observing meteors – it’s about tracking what’s left of the ones that make it to the earth’s surface too.

“So we also observe a meteorite dropping fireballs,” said Vida. “They’re quite rare over an area of let’s say the country the size of France or Spain. Could only expect two to three of those fireballs a year that drop more than, let’s say, 300 grams of meteorites on the ground.”

“So because these events are very rare, it is important to observe 24/7.”

Vida explained that when one of their cameras spot one of them, they collect the data and find its location so they can retrieve what’s left for analysis – and analysis needs to happen quickly.  

“There are certain things in them, like some radionuclide to decay very quickly, but those can tell us how old the meteorite is, how long it was after it was ejected from the parent asteroid that it fell on the ground,” he said.

Vida explained that what ends up on the ground are just “several kilograms of materials” by the time they reach the earth’s surface. They aren’t hot either. They cool down on their descent.

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Global push to monitor meteor showers led by Western University – CTV News London

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MIDDLESEX CENTRE, ONT. —
London, Ont.’s Western University is leading a worldwide effort to monitor meteor showers and meteorite falls.

The Global Meteor Network (GMN) includes more than 450 cameras in 23 countries – hosted by amateur and professional astronomers.

The goal of the project, led by Denis Vida, a postdoctoral associate at Western, is to ensure unique or rare space events are not missed.

Vida explained in a statement, “Other astronomers can pool their resources to build a big telescope on top of a mountain where the skies are dark and clear year-round, but meteor astronomers need spatial coverage most of all.”

Meteors can occur anywhere in the world, happen close to earth and often burn up at around 100 km above the surface — so they can only be well observed from within about 300 km and need to be seen by cameras in at least two places to get the exact location.

That’s where the Global Meteor Network comes in.

In March, the network helped locate a rare portion of a meteorite that landed in Winchcombe, England on Feb. 28 and figure out where in space it originated.

“Its role in the recovery and analysis of the Winchcombe meteorite fall is proof positive that GMN works,” said Vida.

The first system to observe meteorites was installed at Western in 2017, and it continues to grow as the cost of meteor cameras has declined.

GMN also publishes the orbits of all observed meteors around the world within 24 hours of observation. The location of cameras and meteor data can be seen here.

The network also hopes to better understand flight patterns and flux capacities of meteorites, and even predict future events.

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MDA gets $35.3 million contract from Canadian Space Agency for Canadarm 3 components – Times Colonist

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BRAMPTON, Ont. — The Canadian Space Agency has awarded a contract worth $35.3 million to MDA Ltd. to design a key component of Canadarm 3.

The funds will be used to design Gateway External Robotics Interfaces or grapple fixtures for Canadarm 3, which is Canada’s contribution to the United States-led Lunar Gateway, a small space station that will orbit the moon.

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The contract is a follow-on to the first phase of interface work awarded in August 2019. A construction phase will likely be awarded in about a year.

The first elements of Gateway will launch in 2024, with Canadarm 3 scheduled to launch two years later.

The contract is the third awarded to MDA for the multi-phase Canadarm 3 program valued at more than $1 billion.

Canadarm flew on 90 space shuttle missions after debuting in 1981. Canadarm 2 has been operating on the International Space Station for more than 20 years.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published July 26, 2021.

Companies in this story: (TSX:MDA)

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