NASA’s Perseverance rover is scheduled to land on Mars on February 18 next year, after a seven-month trip through space. The rover left the planet on July 30 and NASA now has a new pair of eyes on the solar system, allowing you to keep track of the probe in real time.
NASA has unveiled a web-based app that shows you the rover’s exact location and orbit in relation to the other bodies in the solar system.
Eyes on the Solar System visualises the same trajectory data that the navigation team uses to plot Perseverance’s course to Mars
NASA’s Fernando Abilleira
Fernando Abilleira, the Mars 2020 mission design and navigation manager at NASA, said: “Eyes on the Solar System visualises the same trajectory data that the navigation team uses to plot Perseverance’s course to Mars.
“If you want to follow along with us on our journey, that’s the place to be.”
But the immersive Eyes on the Solar System app can do more than simply let people track Perseverance in real time.
Scores of controls on pop-up menus create a customisable interface not just what you see – from faraway to an onboard view.
In addition, users can also fly formation with Mars 2020 or check the relative velocity between Mars and any other planet in the Solar System.
There is also 3D mode, requiring a pair of red-cyan anaglyph glasses for a more complete and immersive experience.
Jon Nelson, NASA’s visualisation technology and applications development supervisor, said: “With all our orbital assets circling Mars as well as Curiosity and InSight on its surface, there is new data and imagery coming in all the time about the Red Planet.
“Essentially, if you haven’t seen Mars lately through Eyes on the Solar System, you haven’t seen Mars.”
The NASA website not only uses real-time data and imagery from NASA’s fleet of spacecraft,
Eyes is also populated with NASA data going back to 1950 and projected to 2050.
Location, motion and appearance are based on predicted and reconstructed mission data.
What is NASA’s Ingenuity Mars helicopter:
Mars 2020 Perseverance rover is carrying an innovative experiment with it: the Ingenuity Mars Helicopter.
Håvard Grip, Ingenuity’s chief pilot at NASA said despite weighing only 1.8kg, the chopper has some outsize ambitions.
He said: ”The Wright Brothers showed that powered flight in Earth’s atmosphere was possible, using an experimental aircraft.
“With Ingenuity, we’re trying to do the same for Mars.”
Ingenuity features four cutting-edge carbon-fibre blades, arranged into two rotors cable of rotating in opposite directions at approximately 2,400 rpm – far faster than a terrestrial helicopter.
Perseverance’s companion also includes innovative solar cells, batteries, and other components.
Ingenuity does not carry science instruments and is a separate experiment from the Mars 2020 Perseverance rover.
Life on Mars is a brutal experience and the environment is anticipated to push the design limits of many of Ingenuity’s parts.
The thin Martian atmosphere makes it difficult to achieve enough lift.
Because Mars’ atmosphere is 99 percent less dense than Earth’s, Ingenuity has to be light.
Nights can also fall below -90C at Jezero Crater, where Perseverance will land with Ingenuity attached to its belly in February 2021.
While Ingenuity’s team on Earth has tested the helicopter at Martian temperatures and believes it should work on Mars as intended, the cold will push the design of Ingenuity’s parts to their limit.
In addition, flight controllers at NASA will be unable to control the helicopter with a joystick.
Communication delays are an inherent part of working with spacecraft across interplanetary distances.
Commands will need to be sent well in advance, with engineering data coming back from the spacecraft long after each flight takes place.
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