Wednesday, October 27, 2021

Watch (and hear) how NASA’s Perseverance Rover took its first selfie

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Commanding Perseverance to film its selfie stick in action is much more challenging than with Curiosity. Where Curiosity’s turret measures 22 inches (55 centimeters) across, Perseverance’s turret is much bigger, measuring 30 inches (75 centimeters) across. That’s like waving something the diameter of a road bike wheel just centimeters in front of Perseverance’s mast, the “head” of the rover. JPL created software to ensure the arm doesn’t collide with the rover. Each time a collision is detected in simulations on Earth, the engineering team adjusts the arm trajectory; the process repeats dozens of times to confirm the arm motion is safe. The final command sequence gets the robotic arm “as close as we could get to the rover’s body without touching it,” Verma said.

They run other simulations to ensure that, say, the Ingenuity helicopter is positioned appropriately in the final selfie or the microphone can capture sound from the robotic arm’s motors. While they haven’t heard anything concerning to date, the whirring motors do sound surprisingly musical when reverberating through the rover’s chassis.

“It’s like your car: Even if you’re not a mechanic, sometimes you hear a problem before you realize something’s wrong,” Verma said. More About the Mission

Along with its entry, descent, and landing microphone, Perseverance carries a microphone in its SuperCam instrument. The mics mark a first for NASA’s Mars spacecraft, and audio promises to be an important new tool for rover engineers in the years ahead. Among other uses, it can provide important details about whether something is working right. In the past, engineers would have to settle for listening to a test rover on Earth. The Sound of Selfies

Subsequent NASA missions, in cooperation with ESA (European Space Agency), would send spacecraft to Mars to collect these sealed samples from the surface and return them to Earth for in-depth analysis. A key objective for Perseverance’s mission on Mars is astrobiology, including the search for signs of ancient microbial life. The rover will characterize the planet’s geology and past climate, pave the way for human exploration of the Red Planet, and be the first mission to collect and cache Martian rock and regolith (broken rock and dust).

For more about Perseverance: The Mars 2020 Perseverance mission is part of NASA’s Moon to Mars exploration approach, which includes Artemis missions to the Moon that will help prepare for human exploration of the Red Planet. JPL, which is managed for NASA by Caltech in Pasadena, California, built and manages operations of the Perseverance rover.

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