May 24, 2022

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The NASA rover has embarked on a long journey across Mars.  And she is alone

The NASA rover has embarked on a long journey across Mars. And she is alone

NASA has decided to change where the persistent rover operates, so it recently embarked on a long trek to the mouth of the ancient Mars River, a place called Three Forks, to begin delta exploration in earnest. The trip is carried out with the help of an independent navigation system

NASA recently announced the extension of the Ingenuity helicopter program for another year. Not only because it has already survived 21 rides and is still running, but also because it perfectly complements the Perseverance rover. Ibda’s goal, or the old river delta, is similar to the Perseverance Rover, but the two cars will achieve it a little differently.

The Ingenuity will fly over sandy and rocky surroundings, while the Ingenuity will take a more comfortable and supposedly safer route on flat terrain. However, it will include the necessity of driving around the hills, which will not be a problem for creativity. By the way, the perseverance will soon have the opportunity to take a closer look at the 320-meter La Orotava crater, and the inflection of the uncomfortable terrain will lead to perseverance near this crater.

Perseverance already has more than 5 kilometers on the clock and has a lot of experience

NASA’s rover has been on Mars for 393 Earth days. In the Martian calculation of time, on March 19 we have 383 days of Mars’ stay on this planet. During this time, perseverance traveled more than 5 kilometers. So far, his journey has been a round trip, with the rover first setting off slightly south and west to explore the southern part of the geological formation called Séítah. This is the deepest and oldest place in the Jezero Crater.

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circle surface
The path in front of the vehicle and the surface it is currently traveling on

The Perseverance spent dozens of days there, then turned back, a few days before passing where it landed in February 2021 and is now heading to the northeast. The map below shows its exact location. It is worth noting that the distance between perseverance and creativity is currently about a kilometer, which is the theoretical maximum range of a secure wireless connection.

Perseverance has already proven itself in various fields, so to speak, in exploitation. He was able to unleash the creativity of his time, start the MOXIE machine to produce oxygen, and collect and store samples that will be sent back to Earth in the future. There were some adventures, the most problematic of which was the unexpected blockage of the sampling mechanism.

Perseverance Mars Santa Cruz
354 Sol aboard the chariot of perseverance, then was exploring the area called Santa Cruz, right after his longest continuous journey to date.

Fortunately, the problem was solved with the help of Earth’s twin brother, the Rover OPTIMISM. The AutoNAV system, which allows the rover to make long rides on its own without the intervention of personnel from the ground, has also been tested. On this occasion, Perseverance broke the record for the distance traveled by the Mars rover in one day, which now stands at 320 metres. In addition, the flight ended only three days later, when the counter reached 510 meters.

Perseverance is able to travel on Mars for several days on its own without any interference from Earth

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These accomplishments, however, are not the pinnacle of perseverance. The ground crew hopes that this is just the beginning, so the current flight is to carry out the order to reach a place called Three Forks, where the next important stage of exploration of the surface of Mars will begin. Scientists hope this will be the best place in the area to look for traces of past life. The perseverance will probably stay in this area a little longer, and by the time you get there it should have already been cleared from the air by creativity.

The 5 km second will appear on the creativity scale faster

In total, the path that the rover will travel to reach the delta is about 5 kilometers, with an elevation difference of about 40 metres. Most importantly, it is covered with the help of the aforementioned AutoNAV system. This means that perseverance now has a responsibility to take care of itself and successfully achieve its goal. Yes, the mission control center will monitor what the rover is doing and, based on feedback from orbit, draw up a command plan, but it tries to have little effect on how exactly the Perseverance covers the distance.

The video below shows the rover’s route to Three Forks. It was planned a long time ago, but compared to last year’s assumptions, the rover will not travel around La Orotava crater from the east, but will take a shorter path from the west.

Play the video

The current generation of AutoNAV is an evolution of the robotic control system that NASA has already used on its second generation Mars rovers since 2004. The system becomes more complex and autonomous with each new rover. Mark Maimon of NASA JPL, who has done mission planning and software development on previous missions, provides one example — decisions that took minutes of opportunity to make and execute in less than a second in the case of persistence.

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Multi-split persistence. He is able to make decisions about how to go while driving

NASA calls these activities “Thinking While Driving.” Perseverance is able to take pictures of the surroundings and make real-time driving decisions without stopping. Key to this process is delegating a dedicated computing system for driving actions. As in the case of the previous generation of roving vehicles, it does not have to share computational time with other procedures.

A good example of advances in rover automation is the way perseverance avoids obstacles on its own. In this case, the environment of each of its six wheels is analyzed and allowed to drive over rocks or drive over small obstacles. In the case of Curiosity, as reported by NASA, the areas around the entire craft were treated as a single safe space, so it had to see a free lane of at least 5m wide in front of it. Otherwise, the selected route was refused, which significantly extended the trip.

Source: NASA JPL, inf. King