A small problem occurred shortly after the launch of Perseverance.
NASA has announced this. It is not a reason for panic, according to the American space agency; the rover is otherwise healthy and is still on course for Mars.
The problem arose shortly after the launch, when Perseverance flew in the shadow of the earth and thus received no sunlight or heat for a while. This caused the temperature of the rover to drop to a so-called safe mode. All non-essential systems are disabled.
At the moment, Perseverance is still in this safe mode. But NASA expects to be able to get the rover out of there in the near future.
An analysis of the problem has shown that the temperature drop caused by the rover briefly staying in the shadow of the Earth led to problems with a cooling system. The temperature of the system dropped so much that it dipped below the preset lower limit and Perseverance automatically went into safe mode (see box).
During interplanetary missions, it is not uncommon for rovers, landers or orbiters to have some degree of autonomy. That allows them to respond quickly in case of problems. Something that – especially at a greater distance from the earth – is more difficult or even impossible, when contact with mission control on earth must first be sought. Perseverance also has some degree of autonomy and is set up to automatically switch to a safe mode when systems display values that are outside the predetermined limits. The rover cannot get itself out of safe mode; mission control on earth must do that.
NASA is not currently very concerned about Perseverance, Mark Wallace said on behalf of the American space agency. He points out that, as a precaution, safe mode is being implemented relatively quickly. “The idea is that it is much better to go into safe mode unnecessarily than to miss a safe mode when it was needed.” In addition, it doesn’t hurt that Perseverance is in safe mode at this time. “It is a stable and acceptable mode for the spacecraft and not problematic at this stage of the mission.” Now that the facts of the problem are known, NASA expects to be able to get out of safe mode again, which has since long been out of the shadow of the earth.
About the mission
Perseverance was launched yesterday and is due to land on the red planet in February 2021. Once on Mars, the rover will actively search for traces of life and also test various technologies that are critical for future (manned) Mars missions. For example, the rover has a real helicopter that has to take to the skies about 60 days after arrival on the red planet and must demonstrate that you can also fly on Mars. The helicopter thus paves the way for future Marshallopters who can be used, for example, for exploring the Martian surface or transporting supplies.
In addition to Perseverance, two more Mars missions recently started. The United Arab Emirates launched their Marsorbiter Hope earlier this month . And the Chinese space agency launched a Marsor biter, lander and rover last week .