Science Operations

Of course, communications don’t stop after landing. That’s when the complicated task of sending commands to Perseverance and receiving the rover’s huge science data output will begin.

During its mission, the rover will have all of the orbiters in the Mars Relay Network for support – including NASA’s MRO, MAVEN, Odyssey, and ESA’s TGO, which has been playing a key role in the network for the past few years. Even ESA’s Mars Express orbiter will be available for emergency communications should the need arise. While the NASA orbiters communicate exclusively with the DSN, the ESA orbiters also communicate via the European Space Tracking network and ground stations located in Russia.

Although the Mars Relay Network has expanded to include more spacecraft and more international partners, with every new surface mission comes added complexity when scheduling the relay sessions for each orbiter flyover.

“Curiosity and InSight are near enough to each other on Mars that they are almost always visible by the orbiters at the same time when they fly over. Perseverance will land far enough away that it can’t simultaneously be seen by MRO, TGO, and Odyssey, but sometimes MAVEN, which has a larger orbit, will be able to see all three vehicles at the same time,” added Gladden. “Since we use the same set of frequencies when communicating with all three of them, we have to carefully schedule when each orbiter talks to each lander. We’ve gotten good at this over the last 18 years as rovers and landers have come and gone, including collaborating with ESA, and we’re excited to see the Mars Relay Network set new throughput records as it returns Perseverance’s huge data sets.”

Ultimately, this communications endeavor connecting Earth and Mars will enable us to see high-resolution images (and hear the first sounds) captured by Perseverance, and scientists will be able to further our knowledge about the Red Planet’s ancient geology and fascinating astrobiological potential.

More About Perseverance

A key objective of 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.

Subsequent missions, currently under consideration by NASA in cooperation with ESA, would send spacecraft to Mars to collect these sealed samples from the surface and return them to Earth for in-depth analysis.

The Mars 2020 mission is part of a larger NASA initiative that includes missions to the Moon as a way to prepare for human exploration of the Red Planet. Charged with returning astronauts to the Moon by 2024, NASA will establish a sustained human presence on and around the Moon by 2028 through NASA’s Artemis lunar exploration plans.

JPL, which is managed for NASA by Caltech in Pasadena, California, built and manages operations of the Perseverance rover.

For more about Perseverance:

For more information about NASA’s Mars missions:

More About DSN

The Deep Space Network is managed by JPL for NASA’s Space Communications and Navigation (SCaN), which is located at NASA’s headquarters within the Human Exploration and Operations Mission Directorate.

More About the Mars Relay Network

The Mars Relay Network is part of the Mars Exploration Program, which is managed at JPL on behalf of NASA’s Planetary Science Division within its Science Mission Directorate.

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