Perseverance successfully landed on Mars last night, marking another incredible technical feat. During their first press conference held after the landing, scientists from NASA and JPL revealed several pieces of information on where the rover is precisely located, and on the next steps to come.
A nice parking space!
As you know, Perseverance was scheduled to land in Jezero Crater, a formation of 45 kilometers wide believed to have sheltered water between three and four billion years ago. But where exactly did it land? Al Chen – who led the entry, descent and landing team – said the rover landed at approximately 1.7 km from the center of its intended landing zone, in a “little hilly” area.
Showing the image below, the researcher pointed out that the blue areas were considered “acceptable” for landing. The areas in yellow were considered “uncertain”, while those in red were the most risky. Here, the chances of landing successfully were only 4%.
As you can see, Perseverance’s software managed to place it in a relatively narrow blue channel surrounded by red. “We managed to find this parking space”Chen joked. The rover also ended up almost upright, with a tilt of only 1.2 degree.
A video from Monday?
One of the first things to do next will be to recover images and sound recorded during the landing phase. This requires the use of a low gain antenna to transmit data to probes orbiting Mars.
According to Jennifer Trosper, the rover’s deputy project manager, the Mars Odyssey orbiter is expected to pass briefly over Perseverance in the next few hours, followed by the Mars Trace Gas orbiter, which should be able to capture larger amounts of data. . Matt Wallace, another deputy project manager, points out that this information might be enough to allow the NASA to publish a video of the landing from Monday.
As for the first images shared by the US agency, note that they were taken with transparent lens caps on the rover’s navigation cameras. This is why they are of low quality. Rest assured, we can expect much better footage over the next few weeks. To obtain them, Perseverance will have to deploy its mast, equipped with its main imaging camera.
Ingenuity and first drilling operations
For now it is still too early to move. After spending several days checking all of the rover’s instruments, the next big step will be to install Perseverance’s driving and navigation software. These operations should take an additional three to four days before they can begin to move on the surface.
Once this step has been validated, the focus will be on the first test flight of the small Ingenuity helicopter.
As soon as NASA teams determine the ideal site, Perseverance will drop the rotorcraft down about six days later before departing. About a week later, the mission leaders will then give themselves around 30 days to test his abilities. It is then likely that, in the process, the rover will begin to sample certain rocks in its immediate environment.
Ken Farley, of Caltech, points out that the areas currently surrounding Perseverance could be interesting to study. In the long term, however, the goal will be to head towards what appears to be the remains of an ancient delta, to the northwest (in the upper left corner of the image above). This area should offer many collection opportunities for a sample return mission still in the planning phase.
For your information, this delta is located about two kilometers of where the rover is currently located. It is therefore not quite the next door, and many possibilities for chance discoveries can be made along this route.