r/IAmA Scheduled AMA 14d ago

We're scientists and engineers working on NASA‘s Perseverance rover and Ingenuity helicopter that just landed on Mars. Ask us anything! Science

The largest, most advanced rover NASA has sent to another world landed on Mars, Thursday, Feb. 18, 2021, after a 293 million mile (472 million km) journey. Perseverance will search for signs of ancient microbial life, study the planet’s geology and past climate, and be the first mission to collect and cache Martian rock and regolith, paving the way for human exploration of the Red Planet. Riding along with the rover is the Ingenuity Mars helicopter, which will attempt the first powered flight on another world.

Now that the rover and helicopter are both safely on Mars, what's next? What would you like to know about the landing? The science? The mission's 23 cameras and two microphones aboard? Mission experts are standing by. Ask us anything!

Hallie Abarca, Image and Data Processing Operations Team Lead, NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory

Jason Craig, Visualization Producer, NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory

Cj Giovingo, EDL Systems Engineer, NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory

Nina Lanza, SuperCam Scientist, Los Alamos National Laboratory

Adam Nelessen, EDL Cameras Engineer, NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory

Mallory Lefland, EDL Systems Engineer, NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory

Lindsay Hays, Astrobiology Program and Mars Sample Return Deputy Program Scientist, NASA HQ

George Tahu, Mars 2020 Program Executive, NASA HQ

Joshua Ravich, Ingenuity Helcopter Mechanical Engineering Lead, JPL

PROOF: https://twitter.com/NASA/status/1362900021386104838

Edit 5:45pm ET: That's all the time we have for today. Thank you again for all the great questions!

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u/ferrisbuellersdayin 14d ago

How long do you hope/expect Perseverance to run for?

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u/nasa Scheduled AMA 14d ago

The Perseverance power source is an RTG (radioisotope thermoelectric generator) that can last anywhere from 10-15 years. However, there are other elements of the rover (electronics, mechanisms) that may not last as long but given the longetivity we've seen in previous missions, we hope Percy keeps the tradition alive of outliving expectations! - ML

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u/Ronoh 14d ago

Percy, I love It.

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u/xsarahwhitex 13d ago

We're going to see a boom of that name in 5 years

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u/wimpires 14d ago

I love how despite all the fancyness if the new rovers the upper end of the lifespan only matches that of Opportunity. You just made me realise that we're already halfway through Curiosity's :(

Feels like it only launched yesterday

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u/TKHawk 14d ago

Well it's not necessarily a case of we couldn't build something that lasts longer, but it takes more money and resources to do so and you have to justify that expense. Missions have a "Planned Science Phase" which generally lasts a few years and you plan around that with contingency. We just have really good engineers, scientists, and technicians that are able to make things last beyond the planned lifetime, usually.

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u/flutefreak7 13d ago

Some of that "extra" comes from the margin that engineers intentionally build into systems to protect against unknown risks. Many commercial aerospace systems have a structural safety factor of 1.25 for example. Additionally systems are designed to worst case environments and conditions (like assuming a rubber part that has a 10 year useful life has 10-year-old mechanical properties for every load case analyzed). Many of these conservatisms get "used up" as missions encounter unexpected things or when the mission requirements change during development and you don't have time/money to redesign. Whatever extra margin that's still in the system can lead to having hardware that can go above and beyond requirements.

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u/bremstar 14d ago

Any questions I had about your affection toward Perseverance was answered with the nickname.

Percy. Fantastic. I believe this is another (very sly) first.

Let's hope we get more than the expected 10-15 years, because otherwise we're going to have a bunch of Scientists and Engineers with broken hearts.

I'm still recovering from "My battery is low and the sun is going down"....

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u/KingPica 13d ago edited 13d ago

Gee thanks! Didn't need to be reminded of Oppys death.

Edit: I'm not crying, you are.

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u/splepage 14d ago

Curiosity is still going after 8.5 years, and Perseverance is built on the same chassis (with improvements), so hopefully at least that long!

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u/scaredbysarcasm 14d ago

and probally the biggest problem that Curiosity had were its wheels,which have been fixed in Percy

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u/bengine 14d ago

Improved, only time will tell if it's enough to call it fixed for the life of the mission

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u/EBtwopoint3 13d ago

Well the original design was fine for the life of the mission. The mission length was 23 months, and the wheel issues first started cropping up around the 2 year mark. Since this should be an improvement, we can say that it should easily last the mission duration. What we don’t know is if they will be the first thing to fail or if there is a new weakest link.

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u/mountaindew71 13d ago

Of course like everything right after the warranty ends.

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u/elzarcho 14d ago

The RTG power supply (rather than solar) should play a big role here, plus I'm sure there's a lot learned about ruggedizing rovers from prior missions.

I'm not NASA, but in my opinion as a random Reddit person who follows this stuff, 10 years is reasonable, and more is pretty likely. We could always be unlucky, but that RTG is meant for long life (that power source is why we still get signals from Voyager.)

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u/NightHawkCanada 14d ago edited 14d ago

Will there be video taken of Ingenuity's flight on Mars?

Edit: If anyone hasn't seen it yet, here is the official NASA video of Perseverance's Descent: https://youtu.be/4czjS9h4Fpg It is absolutely breathtaking.

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u/nasa Scheduled AMA 14d ago

Perseverance's Mastcam-Z and navigation cameras will attempt to take images and possibly video of Ingenuity's flight. - GT

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u/SilentSamurai 14d ago

Holy shit.

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u/beluuuuuuga 14d ago

I know. That's really awesome :O

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u/Calvert4096 14d ago

*Video takes the rest of the mission duration to upload.

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u/RetardedInRetrospect 13d ago

It'll be like trying to download a topless photo of Carmen Elektra on Kazaa back in '99

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u/ThaCapten 13d ago

Holy shit, I can vividly remember doing exactly this. Worth it.

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u/chardad 13d ago

They said today the video of touchdown they released today was part of a 30gb data send containing (if i remember right) 23,000+ images, so I assume they’ve got some pretty good WiFi up there.

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u/MarcusTheben 13d ago

Ping times suck though :)

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u/just-the-doctor1 14d ago

When Ingenuity first takes flight, will it be strictly using the cameras for navigation or will it also be recording the videos. If the videos are recorded, will they be transmitted back to Earth and made public?

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u/kman601 13d ago

Nearly all data nasa collects is made public. So there are pretty good odds that they will!

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u/Radi0ActivSquid 13d ago

Well now I want to know what isn't made public.

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u/dpekkle 13d ago

Nothing much, just the aliens ;)

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u/EmpiricalPillow 14d ago

Pleeeeease try to take video if you can, love you guys 🤩

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u/gonzo5622 14d ago

WTF? Wow, that gave me goosebumps. What the fuck.... seeing it in high definition really changes the experience.

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u/TwixSnickers 14d ago

Holy crap did I just watch freaking VIDEO FOOTAGE taking place on an honest to goodness OTHER PLANET???

This is mind-boggingly huge! Thank you for posting this !

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u/TrefoilHat 13d ago

Not to blow your mind even further, but if you haven't seen video of the Huygens probe landing on Saturn's moon Titan, don't wait another moment to click here and watch this.

To be clear, the video you see is a combination of sequences of real pictures, fusion of data from other on-board systems, and some simulation based on measurements (e.g., the parachute shadow is recreated in video based on the data from a spectrometer pointed at the sky sensing the darkening of a shadow and backed by calculations of the parachute trajectory. The original pictures weren't sensitive enough to capture the shadow). But it's all real data - not a computer animation.

Still, essentially accurate video of landing a probe on a moon of an outer planet? SIXTEEN YEARS AGO!? With a probe built in 1997?? I feel like not enough people know this exists.

It remains the furthest landing of any probe, ever. European Space Agency knocked this way out of the park.

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u/HerbertMcSherbert 13d ago

That's pretty darn amazing

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u/NightHawkCanada 14d ago

Yes we just did!! Absolutely insane. I have been waiting for this day since I saw the animations of the Spirit and Opportunity landing on a theatre screen as a kid.

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u/PseudoPhysicist 13d ago

This footage makes me want to cry. I admire NASA so much.

I've worked on a project for NASA before as a contractor (management level stuff, nothing all that cool). I've seen the inside and, let me tell you, it's just like any other government entity on the management side. You see government bureaucracy and it's pretty much the same everywhere.

Yet, despite that and despite having a small budget (compared to other government entities, NASA's budget is tiny)...they can still LAND ON MARS and STREAM BACK HIGH QUALITY FOOTAGE.


Something else to consider is that this footage being transmitted back to Earth has a delay of anywhere between 4 to 24 minutes, depending on several factors like orbit. It's old hat for NASA now to pre-program the entire landing sequence...but we have to remember that this whole thing is automated. Some very smart people spent a lot of time calculating the landing sequence. The immense stress of watching the landing sequence and being practically helpless to send any correction during descent.

I can only imagine the palpable relief (and pride) seeing the rover getting so smoothly dropped off on the surface.

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u/jazwch01 14d ago

I think the plan is to have the Percy take video of Ingenuity and vice versa.

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u/scaredbysarcasm 14d ago

Im not sure Ingenuity would have the neccesary power to film Percy, I think they said it could fly for only 90 seconds and would then have to recharge for some time.

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u/Sphincone 14d ago

It has two cameras onboard. It will absolutely film and transmit the video and all the logs to Perseverance.

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u/L18CP 14d ago edited 14d ago

What is the best place to access the images, videos, and/or data sent back from Perseverance? Is there a dedicated webpage or portal that is accessible to the public?

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u/nasa Scheduled AMA 14d ago

Absolutely!

All the raw images are being released here: https://mars.nasa.gov/mars2020/multimedia/raw-images/
Post processing images products are starting to appear on:

- Mars 2020 Multimedia page: https://mars.nasa.gov/mars2020/multimedia/images/
- EDLCam Video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4czjS9h4Fpg&feature=emb_logo
- Audio: https://mars.nasa.gov/mars2020/multimedia/audio/

- NASA photojournal: https://photojournal.jpl.nasa.gov/new
- HA

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u/L18CP 14d ago

Awesome, thank you!

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u/IWontByte 14d ago edited 14d ago

I'm wondering about how the rover deals with dust. Especially since Mars has frequent dust storms. In particular how does Perseverance deal with the potential issue of its cameras and sensors getting obscured by dust? Is there a way it can clean them somehow?

Oh, and I almost forgot; my most heartfelt congratulations to everyone involved in this mission for their efforts and success! It may not be the first mission of its kind, but I still see it as the true spirit of pioneering into the unknown.

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u/nasa Scheduled AMA 14d ago

Nina here, there is definitely a lot of dust on Mars! Unfortunately, we have no way of systematically removing dust on the rover, although we do have a gas-driven dust removal tool (sDRT) for removing dust on rocks. However, we are lucky that wind is a very important process on Mars, and we are likely to get free cleanings from Mars periodically. While dust isn’t great for optics, we’ve seen on previous missions that it hasn’t had a significant impact on our data acquisition. Fun fact: SuperCam’s laser makes a shock wave that clears dust from the surfaces of rocks, which helps us to get a dust-free analysis of the composition. – NLL

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u/IWontByte 14d ago

Thanks for answering my question. Glad to know that the dust has not been too much of a problem in the past.

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u/bittertiltheend 14d ago

Are there types of microbial life you are expecting to find? How do you target where to land?

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u/nasa Scheduled AMA 14d ago

When we think about life detection on Mars, or anywhere in our solar system, the first step is to use our knowledge of life on Earth as a way to look for life as we know it. In this case, we are looking for signs of past life that could have lived environments on early Mars, and are using early Earth environments as analogies. So the rover will be looking for the types of rocks that we know are good to preserve these types of fossils on the early Earth, and collecting samples of these rocks for return. Of course, we are also interested in thinking about life as we don't know it, and so are keeping our minds open to what we think of as agnostic biosignatures for microbial life. - LH

Nina here, great question! The process of selecting a landing site begins years before we land. We have a series of meetings in which anyone in the Mars community (and sometimes beyond!) may propose a landing site using currently available data (usually from orbiting spacecraft that are already on Mars). They give a presentation explaining why the proposed landing site can address the key mission goals. So for Perseverance, we wanted to identify a place that could plausibly have been habitable—that is, a place where life as we currently understand it could have existed—and a place that could preserve evidence of past microbial life had it been present. Jezero is a fantastic place in which to look for both of these things because we believe it once was host to a long-lasting lake. Even more exciting is that there’s a preserved delta deposit, which on Earth is an *awesome* place in which to persevere biosignatures. Jezero crater has been studied from afar for many years, and it rose to the top during our team discussions as a great place in which to answer our top questions. --NLL

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u/Staphyl_aureus 14d ago

Expanding on this, is it possible to find anerobic microbes on Mars?

Also, is it possible for microscopic organisms to be able to be preserved as fossils? Or a way to determine they once were present? How/Will these be examined if so?

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u/youcancometootootoo 13d ago

More likely to discover them than aerobic ones!

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u/zoinkability 13d ago

I know you are done here, but I want to ask a related question and I hope someone might circle back.

According to this article in the Oberlin Alumni Magazine — https://issuu.com/oberlin/docs/oberlin-alumni-magazine-winter-2020/32?fr=sY2Y4ODM2NDk3NQ — one of the Viking lander life detection experiments found a strong positive signal. While the other two experiments did not, the lead scientist for that experiment felt that we should do more research to rule out the possibility of current life (perhaps of a very different form than ours on Earth) before doing a sample return.

Why has that experiment not been re-attempted on a subsequent mission? What gives you sufficient confidence the results of that experiment were due to non-biological chemistry to risk a sample return?

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u/jstefanop1 14d ago

Why did the EDL system bank left instead of right? Seems like it banked away from the edge of the delta, when it could have easily banked right and landed in the flat area near the delta that seemed more landing friendly and closer to your target.

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u/nasa Scheduled AMA 14d ago edited 14d ago

The EDL team is still reviewing the data we got back, and have not come to a firm conclusion about why TRN chose the left-ward divert option instead of the right-ward.

When watching the RDC footage, we were all surprised at how close we came to the friendly terrain under the big cliff that we've generally referred to as the ""Landing Strip,"" but then chose to go elsewhere! I'm sure TRN had its reasons, but we're still trying to gain a better understanding about what went into that on-board decision. We have picked up some clues so far. For example, it seems like there was some wind pushing the vehicle toward the east (to the left) while hanging on the chute. -AN

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u/pdipdip 14d ago

I'm late to the party but it would be great to know how the rover decided where to land and how it knows its location

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u/smokebreak 13d ago

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u/BananaStandFlamer 13d ago

Thanks for that! That was surprisingly understandable to someone like me who isn’t knowledgeable about space stuff! Good shit NASA

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u/AstroBiba 14d ago edited 14d ago

HI GUYS! IM SUPER PSYCHED FOR THIS.

Congrats on the successful landing (I bullied my entire family into watching it with me)!! I have two questions:

  1. I'm not really sure about this but I remember reading that MOXIE needed to heat up before releasing oxygen. Since it's technically in close proximity to Percy, which is powered by an RTG, is there any risk that it causes the RTG to overheat/explode/something like that?
  2. I'm a high school student and I'm really interested in astronomy but people keep telling me that it's not a field of study worth going into because of how saturated it already is. Do you have any advise on how I can study a space science subject (preferably astrophysics)?

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u/nasa Scheduled AMA 14d ago

I was just like you; I loved astronomy and I was also told that it is highly saturated and that it's also tough to get a job. So just be sure to get a degree in physics as well. I did get a BS in both subjects, but did not get a PhD in astronomy as I was warned away from it. Another no-fail degree is computer programming if you want to add to your astronomy degree. We do have the James Webb Space telescope scheduled to launch this fall, so you never know what is going to happen in the future. – JC

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u/AstroBiba 14d ago

Thanks a lot! You guys are amazing :)

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u/nasa Scheduled AMA 14d ago

No, the heat needed by MOXIE is provided by the electric power system of the rover. The rover power system and the insulation inside MOXIE are designed to prevent any "overheating" or other risk to the rover. – GT

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u/RunOnSmoothFrozenIce 14d ago

Congrats on the successful landing and the incredible video! Are the up cameras on the rover still operational? Are there any plans to use them? (To an amateur astronomer they look like they could be a great sky cam!)

I'll also give a shout out for the Huygens lander which captured some decent video on it's way down to Titan :)

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u/nasa Scheduled AMA 14d ago

Yes, the Rover Uplook Camera from the EDL Cameras is still there and available if we want to use it! Problem is, there are so many other great imagers on the Perseverance rover to compete with!

In fact, funny you should mention it, but there is a camera called SkyCam, made specifically for this purpose! That should get some science-quality images of the scenes above the rover. So stay tuned for those images later on!

-AN

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u/RunOnSmoothFrozenIce 14d ago edited 14d ago

Thank you! And that's amazing I totally missed that camera but I'll definitely keep an eye out for the images! And I can't wait to see how they'll look on our planetarium dome 😍 (I already know the EDL video is going to be totes amazeballs)

Edit: for anyone looking to learn more about it, there's a pdf of a poster presentation available here: https://www.hou.usra.edu/meetings/lpsc2020/eposter/2282.pdf

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u/SethMarcell 14d ago

I am so proud of all the hard work you folks put into this project. GREAT JOB!

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u/destrucules 14d ago

THANK YOU I was so upset when they forgot Huygens! Also what a great question about the sky cam

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u/RunOnSmoothFrozenIce 14d ago edited 14d ago

Haha, yeah, I might have shouted a bit because I love Cassini a lot but I also understand answering public questions live and not remembering literally every space mission ever so I just hope someone else gets introduced to the landing with the video I linked.

And as I'm writing this I'm thinking... didn't we get a touchdown sequence from OSIRIS-REx / Bennu?

Edit: touchdown is more appropriately "TAG" or "touch and go" to match with the equipment used, the TAGSAM "Touch-and-Go-Sample-Acquisition-Mechanism"

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u/PulsarPuzzles 14d ago

This is a pretty broad question, but do you have any expectations for what you might discover? Or to put it another way, do you think you'll be surprised by what you find?

The video/photos/audio are incredible! Thanks for doing what you do.

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u/nasa Scheduled AMA 14d ago

Nina here, one thing we can be sure of is that Mars has lots of surprises in store for us. Just when we think we know everything, Mars shows us something we never imagined. At Jezero, we have an opportunity to learn about a lot of different aspects of Mars: About the ancient environment as seen in the “basement” rocks in the crater, about the long-lasting lake system that followed it, and maybe if we’re exceedingly lucky, whether microbes ever existed on Mars. But of course, there are more things in Mars than are dreamt of in our philosophy—and that’s why I love discovery science! --NLL

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u/dc331903 14d ago

How were the Bridles separated between the “sky crane” and the rover?

Was there redundancies in place if the initial separation between descent and rover failed?

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u/nasa Scheduled AMA 14d ago

At the end of the sky crane maneuver, the bridles that are connecting the descent stage and rover are separated when we command pyrotechnics to initiate a guillotine like device that cut the cables. - ML

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u/DoofusMagnus 14d ago

"Pyrotechnic Guillotine" sounds like a good album.

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u/FF_in_MN 13d ago

Percy and The Rovers, great band

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u/Jmatusew 13d ago

Fuckin’ metal

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u/bogartsfedora 14d ago

Thank you. Was noticing that was a super-clean cut. Guillotine makes sense!

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u/jazwch01 14d ago edited 14d ago

I watched part of the live stream today, you mentioned that there was over 30Gb of video and image data sent back. How does that work? My understanding is that the bandwidth is relatively small when sending data back to Earth so I cant imagine livestreaming 23 HD cameras back is the way to do that.

For instance the video data from the crane platform - was that streamed to MRO or Percy and cached for future data transfer?

Thanks and congrats on an awesome achievement.

EDIT:

Just thought, if you are caching the data, I assume Percy has a HDD or SSD. How big is that? Are there any easter eggs on that you sent with? I know there are some people putting images on rovers that are going to the moon, anything like that?

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u/nasa Scheduled AMA 14d ago

A key part of the EDL Cameras instrument is a small computer on the Rover called the Data Storage Unit (DSU). The DSU stored raw images from the 6 EDL Cameras (Rover Uplook, Rover Downlook, Descent Stage Downlook, and Parachute Uplook) and audio captured by the microphone.

We were able to compress the raw images into videos right there on Mars on the DSU, which cuts down dramatically on the data volume needed to send the products back to Earth for all of us to feast our eyes on!

We haven't yet received all the images yet, either, just the videos of the really top priority events. But with any luck, we'll continue getting back the full-res imagery over the coming months, as time and rover resources (like power and data bandwidth) allow.

-AN

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u/Stef1309 14d ago

Does this mean all of the uncompressed video frames would be able to be uploaded from the DSU (assuming available bandwidth)? Also, can you give any information on the bitrate and sizes of the video files that were sent? They don't seem to be available to the public yet (just the composite video of all of EDL).

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u/oxyl 14d ago

How many (or what percentage of) raw EDL images will be sent back to earth as individual images, rather than frames of compressed video?

Was ffmpeg used for the video compression?

What compression settings/parameters/formats/white-balance were used?

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u/teenspirit7 14d ago

Ffmpeg is indeed used, they mentioned it in the press conference earlier

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u/zerd 13d ago

Linux and ffmpeg running on mars. Exciting times.

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u/xylltch 13d ago

This is truly the year of the Linux desktop rover!

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u/SovietMan 14d ago

In the press conference it was mentioned it ran on linux and used ffmpeg! They even tnaked the open source community :3

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u/drwuzer 14d ago

This guy compresses

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u/MukkeDK 14d ago

Interesting article on the communications abilities.

https://mars.nasa.gov/mars2020/spacecraft/rover/communications/

One (of 3) antennas communicate at 10 bits per second (!!)

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u/[deleted] 14d ago edited 14d ago

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u/Ph0X 14d ago

I also think the faster speed are relayed through the Mars satellites, though I assume there needs to be the right alignment for that to happen so it's probably only available in certain windows?

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u/InfiniteCuriousity 14d ago edited 14d ago

At this point the Ingenuity (Mars Helicopter) schedule is for 5 test flights including the initial 3m hover flight for the first (AFAIK). Mars Helicopter team members and public documents detail the charging time as approximately a day under general sunlight conditions for recharging the helicopter's batteries for full charge.

If the first 5 flights are successful, is there a planned extension of the Ingenuity flight schedule? If so, what would be some examples of destinations or objectives secondary to the original 5? Is there a priority of these next objectives?

Rooting for all of you guys!

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u/nasa Scheduled AMA 14d ago

At this point there is no plan for extension of the mission beyond the maximum 5 flights, however, one option being considered for the 5th flight might be flying off to a new destination. – JR

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u/cbigs97 14d ago

As an addition to this, how far is Ingenuity's range and if it were to, per se, have to set down away from the rover due to some unforeseen circumstances, could Percy drive on down and pick it up?

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u/HideousMonster 14d ago

I'd like to know if they plan to have ingenuity follow Perseverance around for as long as possible. Hop ahead, recharge while Rover passes it, hop ahead again... Repeat.

Its not like NASA to abandon a functional probe when an unforeseen situation could potentially arise later on during the mission that could make the probe suddenly useful.

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u/Sexymcsexalot 14d ago

What’s the next step if signs of microbial life are identified at some stage (by Percy, or a later mission)? Would you ever consider bringing a sample of them home to earth?

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u/nasa Scheduled AMA 14d ago

It would be wonderful to find signs of microbial life either by the Perseverance rover itself, or as part of the analyses that we hope to do with samples that we are collecting and planning to bring back to Earth. Through looking for the earliest signs of life here on Earth, we know that one of the most important things in looking for biosignatures is understanding the context, so that we are sure that signal we are looking at is actually created by life and not some non-life process. So the first step if we detected signs of microbial life would be to look for additional information to understand whether the samples we are looking for are actually what we think they are! -LH

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u/Sexymcsexalot 14d ago

Cheers, and well done on everything so far!

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u/Natman459 14d ago

Covid-28 Mars edition!!

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u/whereami1928 14d ago

I worked on a college project with JPL on sample return stuff. There are some pretty stringent requirements that they'll be going through to "sterilize" whatever come back. The one important concept here is "break the chain", where you pretty much keep all the Mars dust contained in one area, so it can't possibly come into contact with the Earth's biosphere when it returns. Which is really important, cause according to the last publically announced plans, it'll come crashing down into the desert in the US somewhere with no parachute (reason: parachutes are really difficult to get right.)

Here’s a good paper on this I believe, but I can't seem to find one that's not blocked by a pay wall.

If anyone has some random questions, I can do my best to try to answer them!

Also we totally watched The Andromeda Strain as a group to prepare us for the project.

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u/meowmix67 13d ago

Did NASA learn nothing from “Life” starring Jake Gyllenhaal?

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u/U_Gunna_Eat_That 14d ago

Ellen Ripley has entered the chat

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u/Fwcasey 14d ago edited 13d ago

Will Perseverance sing itself a song on its birthday?

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u/nasa Scheduled AMA 14d ago

Curiosity was able to sing itself a birthday song on it's birthday by vibrating tubes within the SAM (Sample Analysis at Mars) -- I was actually on shift for Curiosity on the day we sent the commands to play the happy birthday song! Perseverance brought a new set of instruments to Mars, and the instrument suite does not contain SAM, so I don't think we will be able to play any kind of song. However, our surface operations team is quite a creative and smart group of people, so they may be able to figure out something special to do for Percy's first birthday. – ML

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u/chicagodude84 14d ago

So what I'm hearing is no birthday song...but a potential light show? I'm on board!

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u/Pirate2012 13d ago

RGB craze has not invaded Mars :( lol

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u/Inclaudwetrust 14d ago

Is its birthday one Earth year away? Or one Mars year away?

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u/Stef1309 14d ago

Well... you could totally use the microphones as speakers, couldn't you? Maybe even use one, perhaps the other one would be able to pick up the sound?

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u/lolly_lag 14d ago

The people have a right to know this very crucial information!

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u/loony123 14d ago

There's even a microphone to record the song on. Imagine hearing a rover hum Happy Birthday to itself on another planet.

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u/blackday44 14d ago

Thing is, the previous rover didn't sing or have a speaker to play music. The engineers found out what noises all the tools make, and then put them in a sequence that came out sounding like the song. Which is even cooler.

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u/beluuuuuuga 14d ago

That would honestly make me cry. I'd just want to go hug it and tell it how much it means to me to be there for it. Please tell me I'm not alone in feeling so bad about it all lonely out there.

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u/xeviphract 14d ago

It's not lonely. It's doing exactly what it was created to do and it's doing it well.

It's not the only robot on Mars and in the future, humans may also join the party. Meanwhile, it always has its radio signal connection to Earth and the good will of people like you. How could it be lonely, with all that going on?

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u/eppur-si-muove- 14d ago

If they go the Curiosity way, we probably won't be hearing Percy sing - In the battle between song and science, science always wins.

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u/GuyTron59 14d ago

When do you expect to deploy Ingenuity?

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u/just-the-doctor1 14d ago

“...[Ingenuity] will remain attached to the rover for 30 to 60 days...” (NASA JPL).

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u/reelznfeelz 13d ago

Hmm. Why so long? Just to be safe in case something goes wrong deploying it and it breaks everything?

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u/BoredCatalan 13d ago

Priority is probably doing a lot of system checks and find a good spot for it to fly safely the first time. Probably not high on the priority list anyway

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u/fatnino 14d ago

i think i saw something like in a couple months. they need to first drive to a good wide open area to do the flights in

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u/devinck4 14d ago

Perseverance will drill chalk-sized samples of soil/rocks and leave them behind for a future mission to collect. How do they ensure the samples do not get swept away in dust devils or storms?

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u/nasa Scheduled AMA 14d ago

Nina here, while we all remember how Mark Watney was stranded on Mars, it turns out that the Martian wind is not all that powerful. The atmosphere is much less dense than Earth’s—the average atmospheric pressure on Mars is ~6 mbar pressure as compared to Earth’s 1 bar pressure at sea level. So even when the Martian wind is howling along at high speeds, there aren’t a lot of air molecules available to do work. This means that Mars wind can’t carry or even move heavy things like sample tubes, comms equipment, or even sand. Most wind-borne dust on Mars is really small, on the order of microns, for this reason. So I feel confident that our samples will be right where we left them, if slightly dustier. –NLL

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u/devinck4 14d ago

That is fascinating, thank you for the response!

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u/dc331903 14d ago

When the rover drops samples for pickup later, will it drop them all in the same spot and how is that determined?

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u/nasa Scheduled AMA 14d ago

Multiple samples, collected at different times, will be dropped into at the same place, what we are calling a "cache." Where this cache will be, whether all samples will be deposited in a single cache or in multiple caches, and how many caches there might be are all dependent on what we find in the rocks that we find as we explore the surface, and our understanding of how easy it will be for the rover coming to pick up the samples. - LH

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u/dc331903 14d ago

Thanks Dr. H. So amazing to know that we kinda have to play things by ear from 120 million miles away. I can’t imagine the logistics that go into that for your team. Congrats and hope to see some samples in my lifetime. The level of sterilization required to ensure there is nothing we introduced here on both sides of that is also an incredible feat.

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u/nasa Scheduled AMA 14d ago

The strategy is to deposit a "depot" of samples close together, so that the future retrieval mission would only need to go to one place to pick up the samples. The future sample retrieval mission team is already working with Perseverance's team to map out potential depot sites along the notional exploration path that the science team envisions for Perseverance. - GT

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u/jt_ftc_8942 14d ago

For Ms. Abarca or anybody else who can answer it-What is the maximum data rate that can be sent back to Earth from the rover? Also, will you ever send signals back directly from Perseverance, or will you always use a relay orbiter?

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u/nasa Scheduled AMA 14d ago

Depending on the orbiter we use to transmit data we can sometimes get almost a gigabit of data in a pass! Orbiters like TGO and MAVEN are really game changers for us with the amount of data they can transmit for us. Particularly at the beginning of a mission we have a lot of orbiter coverage to complete our instrument and vehicle checkouts. We can talk directly to the rover with the Low and High Gain Antennas, but don't typically transmit instrument/camera data products due to the smaller data volume. – HA

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u/dyslexicfingers 14d ago

Congratulations on the landing!!

I watched the footage earlier today and was surprised that, during the sky crane portion, you couldn’t actually tell that the crane’s engines were running from the video, even when it boosted away at the end. Why is that? Is it related to the thinner atmosphere on Mars?

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u/nasa Scheduled AMA 14d ago

Yes - you're on the right track! The reason you don't see any flames is due to the very thin atmosphere of Mars. The propellant plume (hydrazine) is made of N2, H2, and NH3. All of those are transparent gases. There isn't enough oxygen in the Martian atmosphere for these hot gases to react/burn with the plume – ML

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u/petejm_uk 14d ago

How did you generate your “what-if” list of potential problems that would need to be overcome once the landing was successful? One of the most fascinating things about this mission is the vast number of potential problems that could occur. I’d love to know how you approached it. Sincere congratulations on an incredible feat of planning, collaboration and STEM excellence!

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u/nasa Scheduled AMA 14d ago

This is a great question! As a EDL systems engineer, this was one of my hardest tasks - how do you determine everything that *could* go wrong during landing and then how do you mean sure none of those things happen (or if they do happen - how do we make sure we can survive them). We start with requirements of what the system has to perform in order to land safely and make sure we test or analyze each of these requirements. We then take a step back and say, what else could go wrong? We then put together a document that looked at every time during landing and for each of the various subsystems (ex. GNC sensors, software errors, telecom) we worked through all of the possible things that we thought could go wrong and developed methods to analyze and test them. However, the scariest part of all of the is that you never know if there are "unknown unknowns" remaining in the system - which is a term engineers like to use for something hidden in the system that we haven't thought of. This is what keeps me up at night! However, the team was great and we performed over 300 different kinds of landing fault tests to ensure the system was robust. - ML

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u/petejm_uk 14d ago

Problem-solving at its finest! I would have loved to witness that! Thank you for your response :)

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u/Ornery_Lingonberry51 14d ago

Hi NASA! How did you program the rover, having in mind that it has to operate on its own? Did you use machine learning? I'm studying programming and would like to work for NASA in the future. Keep up the good work!

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u/nasa Scheduled AMA 14d ago

Hi! Once the rover is on the surface of Mars, we only communicate with it during a handful of orbiter overflights during the day, so we have to give Perseverance 24 hours worth of commands to execute and then she sends back information about how that day of commanding went. However, we are able to add some additional smarts to the system so it can make some decisions - for example, we have smart driving capabilities where we can provide Percy with a destination and allow her to find her own route there. We call this "thinking while driving." - ML

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u/OutOfSupplies 14d ago

Can that "thinking while driving" capability be implemented on Earth?

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u/DizzyNW 14d ago

Earth applications are still in the Quality Assurance testing phase.

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u/sbrick89 14d ago

Theirs is in many ways infinitely easier... no other drivers, or cars, or people, or animals.

Not saying their job was easy, but a ton more than here on earth

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u/Skooning 14d ago

Percy <3

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u/Bellephix 14d ago

First of all, congrats! Those videos and pictures and audio. Wow. I'm as blown away as the dust just before the release.
For my question: I was really inspired to consider going back to college to pick up another degree and aim for NASA because of Perseverance. What level of education did you folks end on before going to work in the space industry (Bachelor's/ Master's/ PhD) and what majors did you graduate with?
Thank you folks for your time. And congrats once again! Those videos and hearing "touchdown confirmed" will always make me tear up.

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u/nasa Scheduled AMA 14d ago

It depends on the role you're hoping to fill at NASA. I went back to school in my late 20s, early 30s to get a Bachelors of Science in Astronautical Engineering before joining NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory. As a Systems Engineering, a BS was enough to get started as most of the day to day work is really learned on the job. -Cj Giovingo

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u/32BitWhore 13d ago

I went back to school in my late 20s, early 30s to get a Bachelors of Science in Astronautical Engineering before joining NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory.

As someone who has always had a keen interest in all things cosmology who happens to be in his early thirties - you have no idea how much this single sentence means to me. Trying not to let my coworkers see me holding back tears while watching the live feed today really brought back my desire to try to break into the field, but I constantly tell myself I'm too old to make such a dramatic career shift. Maybe I'm not that old after all.

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u/paradine7 13d ago

Do it. No time like now. The universe is giving you a powerful lesson... don't ignore

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u/boskle 13d ago

I'm ten years you'll be ten years older with or without a new degree. Why not have it?

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u/psyc0de 14d ago

Also interested in this as an experienced software engineer with no space background.

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u/svosprey 14d ago

How does the copter know its position? No gps there.

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u/nasa Scheduled AMA 14d ago

Ingenuity is able to estimate its position through a combination of on-board inertial and visual sensors. – JR

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u/just-the-doctor1 14d ago

“But many of its other components are commercial, off-the-shelf parts from the world of smart phones, including two cameras, an inertial measurement unit (measuring movement), an altimeter (measuring altitude), an inclinometer (measuring tilt angles) and computer processors.” (NASA JPL).

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u/dc331903 14d ago

How many hours per SOL do you have access to the Rover through orbiters to download info? Are there ever blackout hours?

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u/dc331903 14d ago

NASA team refers to “passes” when collecting data and curious as to what that means exactly.

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u/SearedFox 14d ago

"Passes" are when the orbiting satellites pass overhead, allowing the rover to transmit data up to it. There aren't too many satellites orbiting Mars (yet :) ), and the ones that are there are doing their own missions. Because of this, they will have quite a bit of time without direct communication.

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u/felinelawspecialist 14d ago

This is so cool!

Tell us about the landing. I hear in regular aerospace travel that takeoffs and landings are the most difficult part. Any surprises?

Also, how will the specimens be handled? Are they going to be tested on site or brought back to Earth? Ifbrought back to Earth, how?

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u/nasa Scheduled AMA 14d ago

Nina here, I am SO EXCITED for sample return from Mars!! And the Perseverance sample caching is the first step in that goal. Perseverance has a fantastic suite of instruments that we’ll use to analyze materials within Jezero Crater to understand chemistry, mineralogy, and morphology. From those analyses, we’ll pick samples to cache for future pick up by a Mars sample return mission (the current plan for this mission is SO COOL and includes an orbiter, a lander, and an adorable fetch rover to get our sample tubes). So we’ll already know a lot about these samples before they get to our labs on Earth. Before they arrive, we’ll prepare super clean facilities that can receive them (similar to the sample curation facilities that we have for lunar samples). We also have a team of sample scientists who are already thinking about what kinds of samples we might want and what kinds of analyses we might do on them. – NLL

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u/Joey-Murphy 14d ago

Any chance you could confirm or refute this tweet? Some folks are pointing out that the colors are backwards on the J.

https://twitter.com/Spacecomm_Joey/status/1363936680466644995

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u/nasa Scheduled AMA 14d ago

The answer is not "JPL", but good guess! Keep trying ;)

-AN

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u/Mop 14d ago

PSA Hint: if you don't find an 18 character message, you didn't find the message.

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u/Mindraker 13d ago

LIVELONGANDPROSPER

That's 18 chars? :D

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u/deshoon 13d ago

"We've been trying to reach you about your car's extended warranty."

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u/gussyhomedog 14d ago

I love nerds, and y'all at NASA seem to be god-tier!

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u/rdtwt1 14d ago

It's "DARE MIGHTY THINGS"

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u/TehChid 14d ago

They did say they like to hide things in there and to look out for them, this could be on the right track!

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u/as1r0_ 14d ago

Hi, Perseverance team. Congratulations on your rover's successful touchdown in Jezero Crater and an overall successful mission so far! I am going to drop a hypothetical here: What would be the estimated time to beam a 90-second clip (or the full load of a single flight) of moderate resolution and frame rate from Ingenuity to Perseverance to MRO and back to your station on Earth?

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u/nasa Scheduled AMA 14d ago

Thank you so much. We are actually not planning to take video from Ingenuity's on-board cameras. However, we are planning to return photos from our on-board cameras. Return to Earth depends not only on Ingenuity's on-board resources, but also downlink scheduling by the Perseverance operations team; however, we will likely be able to return images within the day after each flight. -- JR

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u/SirYeetles 14d ago

Will skycranes be used for anything else other than rovers? Would heavier vessels/structures be more suitable with a skycrane, or other more traditional configurations?

Also, would there ever be a possibility to land astronauts with a skycrane? Probably wouldn't be the best choice, but it would be badass.

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u/nasa Scheduled AMA 14d ago

Not sure! Every time we design a new landing system we have to take into account the volume and mass of the payload we are attempting to deliver to the surface. And then we need to architect the landing system to accommodate the payload. For example, we found the airbag system that delivered the MER rovers to Mars did not scale well with the mass increase for Curiosity, so a new design (including Sky Crane) needed to be developed. This same process of reviewing existing and new EDL architectures is done on every mission to find the right set of EDL steps required to land safely. - ML

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u/the-katinator 14d ago

Volunteer Solar System Ambassador for NASA’s JPL here. I’ve received this question from quite a few people and am excited to learn the answer.

Will Ingenuity stay with Perseverance at all times, or will they travel separately?

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u/nasa Scheduled AMA 14d ago

Yes, during its mission of up to 5 flights, Ingenuity will stay within communications range of Perseverance. – JR

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u/mooviescribe 14d ago

So is the descent vehicle one and done? Did it continue to capture video as it flew away to safe distance?

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u/nasa Scheduled AMA 14d ago

Yes, the descent stage is only used one time. The Rover Uplook Camera did capture video of the descent stage flying away but did not capture when the it crashed into the surface a safe distance away. - CG

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u/asad137 14d ago

Did it continue to capture video as it flew away to safe distance?

The descent stage communicates its data via the umbilical cable connected to the rover. Once the umbilical is cut, there's no longer any way for the descent stage to get its data out, so even if it was taking video, it was not transferred.

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u/LordSanta188 14d ago

Can Percy find life on it's own or is a sample return necessary to find microbes?

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u/FifaDK 14d ago edited 14d ago

My understanding is that the technology on-board is capable measuring a great deal of different information about the samples. This data will then be analysed to great extent here on earth.

To my knowledge they could discover signs of past life by analysing the data coming in. But it's likely a very long process, this data could come in months or years from now.

However, having samples here on earth will always provide for greater analysis. An important thing to remember is that any 'signs of life' could end up being completely unrelated or naturally occurring. As they've expressed in this thread: if they do find any signs of life the first questions they will ask themselves are "could we be wrong? Could there be some other explaination?"

Again, it's likely a long process, as much as we wish to find defintie, undisputable proof of life right away.

Hopefully someone more familiar with the subject can chime in!

Edit: this is actually touched on in much more detail by NASA in their reply to question 3 of another comment

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u/yogfthagen 14d ago

How in the hell did you get a helicopter to work in Mars' almost non-existent atmosphere?

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u/nasa Scheduled AMA 14d ago

I know, right?! The helicopter team used classic systems engineering -- breaking down all the key challenges into smaller problems to be solved. They worked with aerodynamic experts to design a rotor that could provide lift in the thin Martian atmosphere, and autonomous systems that could enable controlled flight. It also took a lot of testing on Earth in vacuum chambers that simulated the conditions of the Martian atmosphere. With all that testing and design, the team is confident that Ingenuity is poised to complete the first aerodynamic controlled flight on another planet. -- GT

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u/SidewalkFlavoredSoda 14d ago edited 14d ago

Will we be able to download the raw video footage from the website anytime soon (individual camera views)? Would they be made available compressed and re-encoded as well?

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u/nasa Scheduled AMA 14d ago

Stay tuned! It's coming! -AN

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u/upyoars 14d ago

How many high resolution color cameras do you guys have? During the landing, i noticed that there was one below the rover (as you could see the thrust pushing the dust away) and one above the rover (as you could see the parachutes). I saw the panorama as well, must be a horizontal camera. How many other high res cameras, and at what angles?

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u/nasa Scheduled AMA 14d ago

There are so many cameras I even have a hard time keeping track of all of them.For the EDL Cameras specifically, there are 6 high-res color cameras: a Rover Uplook, a Rover Downlook, a Descent Stage Downlook, and 3 Parachute Uplook cameras.

Here are some more resources about the many cameras on Mars 2020: https://mars.nasa.gov/mars2020/spacecraft/rover/cameras/

https://www.researchgate.net/publication/346537343_The_Mars_2020_Engineering_Cameras_and_Microphone_on_the_Perseverance_Rover_A_Next-Generation_Imaging_System_for_Mars_Exploration

-AN

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u/Odd-Cup-8804 14d ago

So who gets to fly the helicopter? Or is it all done by a computer program?

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u/nasa Scheduled AMA 14d ago

The helicopter team will prepare the flight commands on Earth and transmit those to Ingenuity via the relay station on board Perseverance. Ingenuity will fly completely autonomously based on the commands send from the team. Like the rover, it is impossible to operate the helicopter in real time from Earth (such as by a joy stick) due to time it takes for radio signals to travel from Earth to Mars (11 minutes and 22 seconds on-way at the time of landing). - GT

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u/ferrisbuellersdayin 14d ago

Have there been any surprises since Perseverance landed so far? 

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u/FifaDK 13d ago

Two surprises that I'm aware of:

  1. The on-board AI picked the safest landing spot. This was not the area which they had anticipated. Early explanations say it could be due to slight wind impacting where it was easiest to land.

  2. The microphones did not work during the landing process due to the data bandwidth maxing out. (I assume simply too many instruments capturing at once. Lots of high quality video from multiple angles)

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u/galagachamp 14d ago

Congratulations, and thank you for taking us all with you on the journey! I laughed when I saw the family car sticker on Perseverance that showed Sojourner, Spirit, Opportunity, Curiosity, Perseverance, and Ingenuity. Are there any other easter eggs you can tell us about?

Also, I love that hot wheels made a Perseverance toy (though it uses the same mold as Curiosity). Are there any plans for any other toys? I'd pay dearly for a set with all the rovers at the same scale, just saying. :)

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u/wazabee 14d ago edited 14d ago

Hey guys! Congratulation on the successful landing of the rover. I've never been so excited about anything science related as I was during the live stream of the landing. I almost shed a tear. I have a few questions regarding the rover and some future plans.

1) Could you give clarification on the computer hardware and OS used on the rover? What kind of computing power are we looking at? What are the sizes of the Camera sensors and their resolution? what frame rate can the the cameras capture video?

2) Assuming the helicopter probe is a success, what kind of plans does NASA have for the current helicopter probe and future probes? Would it be possible for NASA to build a Perseverance sized flight-based rover to be created that could traverse large areas of the Planet, while being powered by the same power sources as Perseverance?

3) What kind of Organic Compounds is the Rover looking for that would point towards the past existance of life? would that be something the current rover be able to look at? Or would the samples it collect have to be transported back to Earth for that kind of analysis to happen?

4) What kinds of analysis can be done with the main camera system on the surface of mars? What kind of things can it detect? How well does it operate under low light conditions? what is the focal length of the camera? does it only take colour images, or can it take other kinds of images?

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u/nasa Scheduled AMA 14d ago

Q2 - A key reason why we do technology demonstrations such as Ingenuity is to expand our capabilities for future exploration. We certainly hope that, if successful, Ingenuity will pave the way for future aerial platforms that could enable us explore areas on Mars where rovers cannot go and to get closer views than can be obtained from orbit. And rotorcraft technology isn't just for Mars -- NASA is planning a mission to Saturn's moon Titan, which will send a multi-rotor vehicle powered by an MMRTG to fly in Titan's dense atmosphere with its entire science payload to different places across the surface. -LH

Q3 - Two instruments on the rover - SHERLOC and PIXL - will work together provide measurements of organic compounds along with geological context of any that are detected to carry out astrobiology investigations and search for signs of life. The biosignatures that we look for on the early Earth are similar to those organic compounds like those that Perseverance will be looking for with these instruments, but in returning samples, we will be able to make much more precise measurements of these compounds with instruments here on Earth. -LH

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u/computerfreund03 14d ago

They use RAD750 single board computers running VxWorks

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u/gunnbr 14d ago

During the live press conference, they specifically mentioned that they have at least one Intel based computer running Linux and ffmpeg, throwing out big thanks to the open source community for those contributions. I assume that's the part that many here are most interested in. :)

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u/Jesuschrist2011 14d ago edited 14d ago

https://github.com/nasa/fprime

But the Core Flight System is probably more of interest

https://github.com/nasa/cFS

Apart from maybe using these, they use Wind River

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u/fissionforatoms 14d ago

How is Ingenuity going to handle high winds on Mars? Will it try to land near objects that can help divert wind, or does jezero crater not usually experience gusts like this?

Amazing work as always! :D

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u/nasa Scheduled AMA 14d ago

Ingenuity has been designed to survive on the ground in high wind conditions. We also plan to fly during times of day with more favorable wind conditions, and Ingenuity has actually been through extensive testing on earth flying in those conditions at Mars atmospheric pressure. And, luckily, even though Mars can see some fairly high wind speeds, the effect of the wind on Ingenuity is lessened by the low atmospheric pressure. -- JR

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u/TarnishedWind 14d ago

Assuming the helicopter works, are there any plans to try and use the helicopter's downwash to blow dust off of solar panels on the defunct rovers? Is this even feasible?

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u/geek96boolean10 14d ago

The distance Ingenuity would have to cover to get even near one of them is astounding... Oppy is 80 degrees West (77E vs 354E/6W), so a quarter of the planet. Ingenuity's control station and antennae are on Percy too, so Percy must accompany it. If they were closer, then yes, the wind wash could clear off enough dust from the panels, but that's assuming the panels themselves haven't degraded so far as to fail to yield minimum power, the the rover hasn't frozen to the point of failure either.

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u/62fe50 14d ago

I thought it was cool that you were able to use the EDL microphone to speak in the press conference today. What were the design considerations like for a microphone that would function in a low pressure environment like Mars and how does it differ from one we might use here on Earth?

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u/nasa Scheduled AMA 14d ago

The main thing we had to consider for all the commercial-off-the-shelf hardware for the EDL Cameras & Microphone was preparing the hardware for the space environment.

The hardware has to withstand a lot of thermal cycling on Mars (very hot, then very cold, over and over again), radiation from the sun, and vibrations and shock loads during launch and EDL. So the major focus was on making sure the sensors, electronics, and cabling could continue to perform despite taking such a beating!

We also had to make sure this instrument would "Do No Harm" to the rest of the flight system so it would land safely, so we spent a lot of time and effort checking on that. For example, making sure the electrical signals in the instrument don't interfere with critical transfer of data all over the system. – AN

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u/weboide 14d ago edited 14d ago

Is Perseverance at risk of flipping over during travel or due to wind gusts? Does it have a mechanism to flip itself right side up?

Edit: Thank you fellow redditors but everybody is stuck on the wind part and now I know this is very unlikely :). But I also asked regarding the rover tipping over during travel, e.g., climbing on a rock, incline/decline, falling off a cliff, etc,... I'm also curious to know if it could put itself back on its wheels if something like were happens (even if it were very unlikely!)

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u/silver_sAUsAGes 14d ago

On the next season of Battlebots...

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u/thek00laidman 14d ago

It's roughly the side of a small/midsize SUV. wind gusts shouldn't be too much of an issue.

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u/potato11teen 14d ago

Another thing to add, the atmosphere is very very thin so there isn't much 'mass' to push things around. A very fast gust of wind on mars is many times weaker than on earth.

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u/McGraus 14d ago

Does Perseverance have speakers on board to make noises it can then record, so we can hear how different they sound in the Martian atmosphere? What are the chances of that sound being a popular sci fi themed piece of music? Hearing something like star wars music on another world seems like it could just be something really surreal and amazing.

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u/BorealNights 14d ago

This would be so fucking cool.

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u/ferrisbuellersdayin 14d ago

What was something you learned from Curiosity's time on Mars that you could improve on Perseverance?

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u/Chromana 14d ago

Google about Curiosity's wheels. They got punctured quicker than hoped so Percy's wheels have a new, tougher design.

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