NASA receives signal from Perseverance’s landing sensors

NASA’s Perseverance rover was launched on its mission to Mars this summer, with the rover and its helicopter companion Ingenuity tucked away in their protective aeroshell inside the Mars 2020 spacecraft. After a small initial issue where ground control struggled to make contact with the spacecraft due to it being in safe mode, which is automatically activated under certain circumstances and is not a cause for concern, NASA was able to establish contact with the craft and track it on its journey.

But there’s another part of the communication system which needed to be checked as well. The Mars Entry, Descent, and Landing Instrumentation 2 (MEDLI2) suite is a set of sensors that will monitor the spacecraft and allow the rover and helicopter to land on Mars. And NASA personnel on the ground needed to ensure they could communicate with MEDLI2, which they checked in a test called the cruise checkout.

During this checkout, the team at the Flight Mission Support Center at NASA’s Langley Research Center in Hampton, Virginia, received a signal from the MEDLI2 system for the first time since launch, confirming that everything was working and looking good for the landing in February next year.

“This is the first time MEDLI2 has been tested since before launch,” Henry Wright, MEDLI2 project manager, said in a statement. “The test went great; we got the data we wanted, and everything looks like we predicted it would.”

MEDLI2 sensors are installed on the Mars 2020 heat shield and back shell prior that will protect NASA's Perseverance rover on its journey to the surface of Mars.
MEDLI2 sensors are installed on the Mars 2020 heat shield and back shell that will protect NASA’s Perseverance rover on its journey to the surface of Mars. Lockheed Martin

To test out the MEDLI2 system, the engineers powered on the electronics and sensors, making sure that they were taking measurements and transmitting them as required for their role in the nail-biting final descent to Mars.

“With this verification that MEDLI2 survived launch and the cold of deep space, the team is excited to support the Perseverance rover’s landing in February,” Wright said.

The Perseverance rover and its helicopter companion Ingenuity are expected to land on February 18, 2021, in the Jezero crater. The rover will search for signs that there was once life on the planet by examining the crater, which is the dried-up basin of an ancient lake.

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