If all goes well, Mars 2020 will launch into the Red Planet next July. Then, after a six-month cruise to Mars, land transporting a 1-tonne motor-block will break away from the spacecraft and attempt a landing in the ancient lake bed on Crater Lake.
Most likely, it will all go well despite the huge challenge of safely sending a spacecraft to Mars. Historically, about 50% of missions have failed. But NASA is very good at this, and there is a reason. The agency is really working to fix all the details.
Probably the most difficult part of the Mars 2020 mission is to mount a rover on the ground. It's true that in August 2012, NASA completed a nearly identical landing profile of a similar size to the Curiosity rover. However, there is one key difference: while curiosity was looking for a safe landing place on the relatively smooth terrain of Galle Crater, the Mars 2020 mission would land in a more athletic place with boulders and other hazards.
To increase the chances of success Thus, the Mars 2020 mission will have additional technology called "Local Relative Navigation", in fact an autopilot. And this autopilot was carefully designed. Andrew Johnson, an engineer at the NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory in California, has spent most of the last 15 years working on the technology that will drive a 2020 spacecraft in just 10 seconds.
"These 10 seconds can change whether we land safely on Mars or not," said Johnson, who is responsible for the tachier's vision system.
How It Works
4.2 km above the surface, as the earth descends under parachute power, the onboard computer begins to rapidly photograph the Martian surface. Each image has a resolution of 6 meters per pixel, and the landing system looks for features such as craters, rocks and large boulders to compare with previously captured orbital images. After the onboard computer has completed 15 character "matches", it goes into higher resolution mode to fine-tune the positioning on the landing. Previously, the landowner could estimate where he was on Mars, within about 3 km. The new vision system aims to reduce this error to 40 meters.
In this sequence, there is approximately a 10-second period during which the on-board computer evaluates the high resolution image, calculates the expected landing position, compares this location to satellite images of Martian surfaces, and determines whether the course of the vehicle should be altered. . All this must be done before the back shell is detached, after which rocket firing at 600 meters will no longer be possible.
To do all this work requires both new equipment, including a "view element" and a landing camera. It took a long time to write software and create algorithms, but Johnson knows the system must work. No traffic. "This is what will allow us to land on such high scientific interest as Crater Lake," Johnson said.
Without a vision system on landing, the rover will most likely still reach Mars. There is about an 85% chance of success. But this is nowhere near good enough for a $ 2 billion mission. Thanks to the landing camera and the software Johnson brought to the development, the probability of success increases to 99%.
NASA's test program
of course, cannot test the Mars landing system, so it turned to the next best thing – the Mojave National Wildlife Refuge and Death Valley. Johnson and other engineers developed a testing program, and in April and May participated in a series of fall tests to simulate a landing on Mars, where the sight system observed a marshy terrain such as Kelso Dunes.
Working with pursuit aircraft, Johnson will fly a helicopter up to 5 km above the ground, with a vision system attached to the front of the vehicle to take and process images. The vision system has made more than 600 simulated landings on Mars and has successfully demonstrated its location, hazard assessment and search for safe landing sites.
"Watching these guys work is pretty incredible," said John Tamburo, an airline pilot flying an Airbus H125 test helicopter. " They dedicate their lives to this. It's incredible that Andrew has been working on this project for 15 years. They are all."
Listing images of Pursuit Aviation