Separate ultra-high frequency signals in the megahertz range can also transmit heavier files, such as images from Perseverance’s on-board cameras. The rover will communicate with the satellites orbiting the red planet, and these will transmit its signals to Earth. (From NASA Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter, the Maven satellite, and their cousins at NASA have a new company: United Arab Emirates Mission Hope recently placed a probe into orbit, which returned its first images.) These communication channels will continue to ping NASA on the day of landing.
But even with all the cameras and microphone, don’t expect instant video feed. The transmission of these large files will take some time. Even basic communications like the “heartbeat tone” take 11 minutes and 22 seconds to reach Earth at this time of year. This delay means that NASA engineers will not have real-time communication with the craft during the famous “seven minutes of terror”, when it will have to survive its descent into the Martian atmosphere and land autonomously.
Here are some milestones to look for:
At 3:38 p.m., 10 minutes before entering the atmosphere, the cruise stage must separate from the hull carrying the rover.
Perseverance is expected to enter the atmosphere at 3:48 pm, kicking off the “Seven Minutes of Terror”.
The heat-protected shell should then glide toward Mars for about 14 minutes before deploying a parachute and dropping its heat shield. The parachute should deploy around 3:52 p.m.).
After a few minutes of parachuting, the rear hull of the machine will release Perseverance, carried by a kind of jetpack for a smooth and powered descent. This “sky crane” will reduce persistence on nylon ties, come loose and fly away.
NASA expects to land at 3:55 p.m. and share the first image about five minutes later.
WIRED will also provide updated coverage as soon as NASA officials confirm details of the landing.
After Perseverance arrives, the experiences will not start right away. “Every time you arrive in a new environment, you want to reorient yourself,” says Villar. “We want to fully stretch his limbs and open his eyes. The rover’s first days in Jezero will be spent taking photos, checking out instruments, and updating the operating system to software more relevant to Mars exploration. “We will be at the current location for a few days, if not weeks,” says Villar.
More videos and photos will be directed to Earth as the rover begins its exploration, and cameras aboard the landing craft will give NASA unprecedented insight into the landing process. “We’ve never had footage like this, ever, on Mars,” Villar says. NASA officials hope to have low-resolution video in a few days. “Maybe we can put together some real footage of the landing,” Villar says.
In the meantime, for Villar, these last hours of approach are like those enticing moments for a kid whose family has taken a long road trip to Disneyland and has finally stopped in front of the doors. “As I get in the car, I get more and more excited. And then you cross the freeway – now I’m really excited. And then you get to the parking lot and now you’re really excited, ”Villar says. “I feel like I’m in the Disneyland parking lot right now.”
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