recaps of the top 'ask me anything' interviews from reddit and more...
We're scientists and engineers working on NASA‘s Perseverance rover and Ingenuity helicopter that just landed on Mars. Ask us anything!

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!


56
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February 22nd 2021
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bittertiltheend

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


nasa

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

jazwch01

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?


nasa

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

IWontByte

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.


nasa

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

AstroBiba

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)?

nasa

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

L18CP

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?


nasa

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

jstefanop1

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.


nasa

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

petejm_uk

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!


nasa

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

RunOnSmoothFrozenIce

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 :)


nasa

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

devinck4

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?


nasa

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

PulsarPuzzles

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.


nasa

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

Sexymcsexalot

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?


nasa

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

InfiniteCuriousity

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!


nasa

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

felinelawspecialist

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?


nasa

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

wazabee

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?


nasa

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

Bellephix

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.


nasa

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

Fwcasey

Will Perseverance sing itself a song on its birthday?


nasa

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

jt_ftc_8942

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?


nasa

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

Ornery_Lingonberry51

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!


nasa

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

dyslexicfingers

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?


nasa

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

dc331903

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


nasa

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

ferrisbuellersdayin

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


nasa

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

NightHawkCanada

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.


nasa

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

dc331903

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?


nasa

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

SirYeetles

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.


nasa

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

as1r0_

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?


nasa

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

upyoars

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?


nasa

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

yogfthagen

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


nasa

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

Odd-Cup-8804

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


nasa

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

Joey-Murphy

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


nasa

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

-AN

fissionforatoms

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


nasa

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

mooviescribe

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


nasa

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

svosprey

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


nasa

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

62fe50

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?


nasa

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

the-katinator

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?


nasa

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

SidewalkFlavoredSoda

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?


nasa

Stay tuned! It's coming! -AN

SFMBB

Can you please describe how the rover's radioisotope thermoelectric generator (RTG) is designed to shield Mars or future Mars human explorers from the radiation of the onboard nuclear material and what design considerations were given (what expertise) you drew upon for that design? Thank you.


nasa

Radioisotope power systems have been successfully and safely used by NASA to explore the solar system for nearly 50 years, including the Mars Curiosity rover and Viking landers and the Apollo science packages that the astronauts took to the moon. The radioisotope fuel in Perseverance's RTG predominantly emits alpha particles--a type of radiation that travels for less than two inches in air and is easily stopped, by as little as a sheet of paper or the outer layer of skin. The surface of Mars is bathed in harsh radiation from galactic cosmic rays and solar radiation, so future exploration systems will need to be designed to protect human explorers from that natural radiation. – GT

sbasv

It was stated by NASA that it takes around 11 minutes to receive data from the rover on Mars, does that apply to all types of data? If not, how long does it take for an image to arrive at Mission Control? (an image of the resolution that has been received so far).


nasa

The amount of time it takes to receive data is limited, as in all things, by the speed of light, just like your cell phone or your radio. So, 11 minutes 22 seconds is how long it takes at the speed of light to travel from Earth to Mars for the current relative positions of the two planets. Just like a racetrack with a runner on the inside lane and a runner on the outside lane, the distance between them changes. For Mars to Earth, the signal can take as long as 23 minutes. For the Voyager spacecraft at the edge of the heliosphere, long beyond Pluto, the time to send a signal one-way is like 21 hours right now. You can see the range time to "phone home" at our Deep Space Network Now website in real-time: https://eyes.nasa.gov/dsn/dsn.html – JC

just-the-doctor1

I’m a freshman Aerospace engineering student. I was absolutely amazed by the videos and photos that were shown on the live stream today.

How can I end up where you guys are right now?

In college, what areas of expertise should I try to focus in?

Are there any skills you want college graduates to have but find many lack?

I’m really interested in programming and can write simple programs in python. I’d love to learn more about how the Terrain-Relative Navigation and how the rover uses the images from the Hazcams to be able to identify possible hazards and then create a safe route around them. How can I learn more about the exact logic and image processing being used?

Are there any small projects that I could feasibly do at home with a raspberry pi and some other electronics?

Thank you! :)


nasa

Computer science is an excellent field to get into if you are interested in working on future missions! I highly recommend applying for NASA summer internships as you can truly learn so much. (That's how I was lucky enough to get where I am today!)

Re Hazard Cameras: We heavily rely on our hazard and navigation cameras for drive planning and robotic arm operations. For some more information on the Mars 2020 Engineering Cameras: https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s11214-020-00765-9.

-HA

wielkacytryna

You said that Perseverance will collect and drop samples so they can be brought back to Earth. But conditions on Mars are very harsh. How will the samples be protected? What will be done to make sure they survive until they can be picked up?


nasa

All of the collected samples will be put into sample tubes before they are dropped, and a lot of planning and testing have gone into understanding what would happen with the sample tubes that are deposited on the surface! These tubes are sealed after the samples are collected so that the samples will be contained and protected while they sit on the surface waiting for collection and all the way on their trip back to Earth. -LH

Qwerty1418

Is there any functional difference between the 2 microphones on Perserverance? Or are there 2 simply for redundancy if one were to break? If there is a difference how will that difference enable further scientific discoveries?


nasa

Nina here, I love our two mics! Perseverance has two of them, one to capture sounds of entry, descent, and landing (EDL) and another on the SuperCam instrument to capture the sounds of our rock-vaporizing laser (really!). I’m most familiar with the SuperCam mic since I work on that instrument. SuperCam includes a laser-induced breakdown spectroscopy (LIBS) instrument that uses a laser to obtain chemistry information. We can shoot rocks up to 23 feet (7 m) away from the rover. When the laser hits the rock, we vaporize a tiny amount of material (micrograms) into a bright plasma, which expands outward and produces a shock wave. It’s less of a "pew-pew" and more of a "snap-snap" =] But it turns out that we can learn about the rock’s material properties by listening to the laser snapping sound, including things like rock hardness, how deep our laser is penetrating, and also whether there are rock coatings present. I like rock coatings because they are a fantastic place to study interactions between the rock, water, atmosphere, and potentially life. – NLL

AlsoIntoSpace

Congrats on an amazing mission so far! A couple questions:

  1. Now that the skycrane has worked successfully for both Curiosity and Perseverance, is the technology being considered for use on other missions?
  2. Perseverance is looking for signs of ancient life, but is there any chance at all that there's microbial life somewhere on Mars today? Even if there isn't, what are some key signs that life, no matter how small, exists or used to exist on Mars?

Thanks and congrats again! Can't wait to see what this mission does in the future


nasa

Whether we use a sky crane type system for a future mission all depends on what that mission's needs are going to be. Mission designers consider all the different options and capabilities available to meet the requirements. Sky crane was particularly useful for Curiosity and Perseverance becuase it provided a way for the rovers to land on their wheels, ready to explore. Future missions might have other considerations that might make a platform lander (such as Phoenix and InSight) more useful. As for seeking signs of life, the scientific consensus is that the surface of Mars is too harsh an envionrment (too cold, dry, and bathed in harsh radiation) for life to exist today. However, it might be possible that deep underneath the surface, beyond the reach of radiation, and perhaps where liquid water might be, that might be a potential habitable environment. Perseverance is designed to explore the ancient rocks in Jezero Crater, looking for potential biosignatures (chemicals, minerals, structures, or organic molecules) that might have been preserved from 3.5 billion years ago when the surface of Mars was warmer, wetter, and more conducive for microbial life. – GT

_Vort3x_

what's the best advice you could give to a high school senior to try to get in this field?


nasa

To build and operate a mission like this, we need a team of all sorts of people! Not only do we need every type of scientist and engineer, but we also need lawyers, business managers, media experts, photographers, accountants, etc. My best piece of advice for you is to figure out what you like to do and then find a way to apply that to areas that interest you. Mars missions are full of passionate people working together, so if you are passionate about what you are doing - you'll fit right in. - ML

whidzee

Does ingenuity have a turtle mode? so if it lands on it's side is it able to right itself?


nasa

Unfortunately, no. - GT

Winter-Huntsman

As a photographer I got some camera questions. How are the cameras on perseverance different compared to cameras on previous missions? Will we be seeing more video in the future or will it be time lapse videos based on images? What is being done to protect the cameras from the dust on Mars?


nasa

For Curiosity, InSight, Spirit, and Opportunity we had 1 megapixel black and white engineering cameras. The Mars 2020 Engineering cameras are now 20 megapixel color cameras! There are 25 cameras between this mission and the Ingenuity helicopter that will be sending back incredible data these next few years! The Mastcam-Z cameras have the capability to capture video, so stay tuned for that! Fun fact: we're always careful to leave our cameras pointing slightly down so that they do not collect dust.

-HA

Prowood02

This may be a dull one or bad one but, what was going through your heads while the rover was going to Mars? Did you expect Aliens?


nasa

After the spacecraft launched and was cruising towards Mars, I was mainly focused on all of the things we needed to do to get the spacecraft ready for landing. Once we launch, the team has to make sure all of the hardware survived the launch environment and that both of the spacecraft computers are set up properly for landing. Additionally, the team is also prepping the team for landing and making sure everyone knows that their exact role and responsibilities are on landing day. So it is quite a lot of work to get done in a short amount of time - I think the team doesn't have much time to focus on anything else besides make sure we land safely! - ML

GISGirl44

Where can I find the Perseverance rover landing simulation?


nasa

Hi, you can re-live the thrilling landing here: https://eyes.nasa.gov/apps/mars2020/#/home. We will update it just as soon as we get the data back so that it lands in exactly the right place. And for a live solar system you can access on your phone, visit our solar system interactive: https://eyes.nasa.gov/apps/orrery/ - JC

thinkdeep

Is NASA prepared to stand by this mission and fund it in the off-chance that it lasts 5,000+ Sols like Opportunity did?


nasa

That question is above our pay grades, but if it was up to me me, I would say, yes! (If the rover is healthy at the end of the two-Earth-year prime mission, the team will seen an extension.) Consider this: the Curiosity rover is still going strong at 3,039 sols, with no end in sight, as it has a big mountain to climb. In fact, since Curiosity and Perseverance both have a radioisotope thermoelectric generator (RTG) power system, which relies on the heat from the natural decay of Plutonium-238 as opposed to solar panels, they could have power for 14+ years. All mechanical parts are "warranteed" for that two-year prime mission. --JC

Ambitious-Mammoth722

If signs of microbial life are found on Mars, would you expect it to be based on a DNA or RNA backbone or could there be other structures that encode life on Mars?

If Mars life is based on DNA it would be remarkable such complex structures can evolve independently on separate planets.


nasa

One of my favorite Arthur C. Clarke quotes is "Two possibilities exist: either we are alone in the Universe or we are not. Both are equally terrifying," but I like to think of a modification to that: if we find life somewhere else, either it is a distant cousin of ours, or it is a completely different origin of life, and either way it would be fascinating! Early Earth and early Mars were fairly similar in terms of their environments, and we know that meteorites from one place have ended up in the other, so the possibility that life may have swapped from one to the other is there, and if thats the case then its possible that they would have been DNA or RNA based. If it is a different origin of life, it would be a lot more likely that it would have had a different compound or process for passing along information from one generation to the other. Unfortunately, DNA and RNA are not very well preserved in environments here on Earth for long periods of time, so it is unlikely to be the type of sign of life that we will find with this mission, and the instruments that we have on Perseverence aren't the ones that would help us find nucleic acids. - LH

oliviaslily

Compared to the air on earth, how is it different on mars; also how does that affect the blades on the helicopter?


nasa

Nina here, the Martian atmosphere is composed primarily of carbon dioxide at ~6 mbar pressure. This is a lot lower density than Earth’s atmosphere (which 1 bar pressure at sea level), and while there is carbon dioxide in Earth’s atmosphere, our atmosphere is primarily made of nitrogen. It’s also generally colder on Mars than on Earth, which affects the buoyancy of air. Additionally, the aerodynamic effects of the low pressure Mars atmosphere interacting with the blades makes it all but impossible to control Ingenuity without its on-board computer. So all this means that on Mars, it’s a lot harder to fly a helicopter—but not impossible! Ingenuity is extremely lightweight and has two extremely large rotors (4 feet long!) to provide lift in the cold, low density atmosphere of Mars. It’s gonna be sweet! --NLL

redheadinmd

Simple question - is there any significance or reason for the colors/patterns on the parachute? Thanks and congrats!


nasa

In parachute development and testing, we have traditionally used color patterns (typically composed of orange and white panels) to help us better understand parachute inflation from reviewing images, and we certainly took the opportunity to do that again this time! – AN

Noisy_Dog

On today's livestream, Justin mentioned that the EDL cameras were connected to a commercial computer running Linux. Is this computer only being used for capturing and compressing EDL image data, or does it have other current or future functions? Were there any special modifications required to prepare the computer for spaceflight, e.g. radiation hardening or removal of off-gassing materials?


nasa

Yes, the Data Storage Unit (DSU) on the rover is a Linux machine that is exclusively used for EDLCAM imagery, video, and audio. We can use it to continue capturing, compressing, and transmitting data from EDL as well as new images or audio from the sensors still present on the rover.

There are no other uses planned for it. At least we haven't YET thought of anything else we might be able to do with it... 🤔 Does Reddit have any ideas?

Also, JPL did develop a custom interface electronics board to manage the communication between the commercial-off-the-shelf board and the rover's RCE (the main computer or "brain"). And yes, there were modifications across the EDL Camereas instrument to prepare it for radiation, outgassing, etc. – AN

dhurane

Congratulations to the team for this momentous achievement!

To the science team, was there any suprises in the geology of where Percy landed? Was the holey rocks that seems to be speculated coming from volcanic activity expected to be in that area?

To the engineering folks, is the current skycrane system at the limit of how heavy a rover it could carry, considering this is heavier than MSL?

And a question for Mars Sample Return. Why is the mission split for collecting and returning, was it impossible to do both in one mission?

Thank you for answering any of my questions in advance.


nasa

Each mission of the Mars Sample Return performs a specific function needed to collect, retrieve, and return samples to Earth. By splitting Mars Sample Return into multiple missions, it reduces risk and complexity of each mission, and also allows for us to partner with other agencies for different missions, as well as develop technologies for things (like the Mars Ascent Vehicle to get the samples off the surface) that we haven't done before. - LH and GT

jaceinthebox

are the 23 cameras all one type or are there multiple types that can take different images ? ie: IR, XRAY, Accoustic


nasa

There are a ton of different types of cameras on this mission! Definitely check here for a great overview. – HA

irrational_design

Are there any maps showing exactly where Perseverance landed? Where did it land within the target landing zone? Where is it within the crater? Where is it in relation to the region/hemisphere?


nasa

Yes, you can see its location on Jezero crater with this interactive map. And for a global view of the landing site with relation to the planet, go here. – JC

fatnino

The raw stream of images was conspicuously absent this weekend. Seems fairly obvious it was withheld so you could make a big splash revealing the video today.

Are we to expect similar shenanigans when it comes time to downlink the helicopter flight video?


nasa

There are some more practical reasons that require a wait time before we can release data from our rover mission.

1) The videos were very sizeable in terms of data volume, and we're very limited in how fast we can get data back from the Perseverance rover. We depend on the orbiters circling Mars to receive the data from the Rover and forward it on to Earth, and those are only overhead at certain times of the day. Additionally, there is a lot of key data about the health and safety of the rover that takes priority over this imagery, so EDLCAM footage tended to be behind those data sources.

2) Once received on the ground, the videos needed some cleanup and color correction in order to look as good as possible! We wanted to take the time we needed to be really ready, to release the amazing products we showed today at the press conference.

-AN

Ornery_Lingonberry51

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!


nasa

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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nasa