Space – Small technical issues for the Perseverance rocket

Launched Thursday to Mars by NASA, the Atlas V rocket, which carries a rover tasked with detecting traces of life, has gone into safe mode.

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The spacecraft carrying NASA’s Perseverance rover to Mars is experiencing technical difficulties and is currently operating using only its essential functions, NASA said Thursday. However, she wanted to be reassuring about the future of the mission.

“The data indicates that the ship entered a state known as safe mode, presumably because part of the ship was a little cooler than expected” when “it was in the shadow of Earth” , explained the US space agency.

The spaceship has now emerged from Earth’s shadow and temperatures are now normal. “Right now, the Mars 2020 mission is doing a full status check of the spacecraft and is working to get the spacecraft back to nominal configuration for its trip to Mars,” NASA said.

Deadlines in communications

“When a ship enters safe mode, all functions except essential ones are disabled until it receives further instructions from the control center,” she said. “The ship is designed to go into safe mode if its onboard computers perceive conditions that are not within its preprogrammed settings,” she said.

Delays in communications between the spacecraft and the control center in California were also noted. The mission sent a first signal to Earth at 9.35 a.m. (3.15 p.m. Swiss time), but it was only around 11.30 a.m. (5.30 p.m. Swiss time) that the telemetry – allowing more detailed data to be collected – was established.

Matt Wallace, deputy head of the mission, however wanted to be reassuring: “Everything I have seen so far seems correct, and we will know more quickly”, when the NASA teams have studied the telemetry data, he said.

480 million kilometers

NASA on Thursday successfully launched its Perseverance mobile robot to Mars, designed to discover traces of ancient life on the red planet. The rover also carries a mini-helicopter which will attempt the first flight of an aircraft on another planet.

The Perseverance rover will have to look for traces of past life on Mars.

KEYSTONE

An Atlas V rocket took off as planned at 07:50 (13:50 Swiss) from Cape Canaveral for a journey of nearly seven months and 480 million kilometers. The first stage of the rocket detached a few minutes later, before a second thrust, from Earth orbit, which propelled Perseverance on its trajectory towards Mars.

“It’s really fantastic to be gone after all the work done by this team,” said Bobby Braun, an executive of the US space agency, after the launch. “We are used to doing exceptional things in the most difficult conditions and it is once again the case,” NASA chief Jim Bridenstine said shortly before as the United States faces new outbreak of Covid-19.

(afp/nxp)

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