I watched NASA’s Perseverance rover and Ingenuity helicopter take off at 6:50 this morning, 11:50 UTC. (July 30, 2020)
If I heard coverage of the launch correctly, it wasn’t perfect.
The Atlas V took off a few milliseconds early.
A few hours later, a message from the spacecraft let folks on the ground know that it had gone into safe mode. Odds are that Mars 2020 got chilly while in Earth’s shadow.
The onboard computer apparently noticed that conditions weren’t as expected and shut down everything except vital systems.
My guess, and hope, is that whatever triggered safe mode was a hiccup. Not a problem:
- “NASA, ULA Launch Mars 2020 Perseverance Rover Mission to Red Planet”
News, Mars Exploration Program, NASA (July 30, 2020)
Good news. Going into safe mode was not a problem. The spacecraft got cooler than expected while going through Earth’s shadow. Non-vital systems are powered up again. And, as JPL deputy project manager Matt Wallace said, “Next stop, Jezero Crater.”
- “Mars 2020 Perseverance Exits Safe Mode, Successfully Heading to Mars”
Mission Updates, Mars 2020, NASA (July 31, 2020)
I’ll be talking about the Mars 2020 mission, the first Martian helicopter, biosignatures and the MOXI experiment. Later.
Today I’ll say that “ULA” stands for United Launch Alliance, an American launch service provider; and talk about peanuts.
Seems that back in the day, Rangers 1 through 6 failed. Then, finally, Ranger 7 hit Earth’s moon, sending back pictures.
The folks at JPL noticed that they’d had peanuts available during the Ranger 7 mission, but not during the first six.
From then on, they made a point of having peanuts available.
Superstition? Maybe. But JPL’s peanut tradition doesn’t strike me as “the deviation of religious feeling and of the practices this feeling imposes” that’s a bad idea. (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 2111)
Besides, there’s a pandemic and a presidential election in progress. Promoting peanut peril seems paltry.
The Mars 2020 mission launched from Florida, on an American vehicle run by an American launch service. I think of it as an American mission. A partly American mission.
The Perseverance rover will be leaving core samples for a later mission’s rover to pick up and load into a surface-to-orbit vehicle. A robotic cargo ship will take them back to Earth.
The last I heard, Airbus has the contract for building what they call “the first interplanetary cargo ship.”
- “Airbus to build ‘first interplanetary cargo ship’”
Jonathan Amos, BBC News (July 29, 2020)
I’m glad that quite a few Americans and my country’s government haven’t lost interest in one of this era’s major developments.
I’m also glad that we’re cooperating with folks in other nations. And, being human, competing. Which can be healthy. And that’s another topic.
Finally, I can’t be sure: but I think that’s a model of Thunderbird 1, from Gerry and Sylvia Anderson’s old Thunderbirds series, on Mr. Parker’s shelf. We’ve come long way since my youth. And I think the last half century is just the beginning: