How did NASA’s Perseverance Mars rover pick its exact landing spot? Believe it or not, the Mars rover decided precisely where to land just moments before it touched down. It’s thanks to the work of engineers like NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory’s Swati Mohan and new technology called Terrain Relative Navigation.
When NASA decides to send a rover to Mars, a whole group of experts gets together to figure out where it needs to go for the best science for that mission. Perseverance’s mission was to find the signs of past life on Mars. So, all the experts got together and picked Jezero crater.
Jezero crater is an ancient lakebed and the things that make it interesting for the scientists, the cliffs and the rocks and the craters — these are the things that make it challenging for the engineers to land there. In order to land safely at Jezero crater, Perseverance needed a brand-new technology called Terrain Relative Navigation.
Terrain Relative Navigation is basically like adding eyes to Perseverance. For the first time, while descending to the surface of Mars, Perseverance was able to look at the ground and see it. The rover was then able to figure out where it was and then decide where to touch down based on the hazards visible from the ground.
This technology allowed Perseverance to thread the needle between all the different hazards of Jezero crater in order to land safely.
So, how did Perseverance pick its exact landing spot? With a brand-new pair of eyes that allowed it to land in the most challenging terrain ever attempted on Mars.
Learn more about NASA’s Terrain Relative Navigation.
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