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NASA’s Artemis II crew members are assisted by U.S. Navy personnel as they exit a mockup of the Orion spacecraft onto an inflatable “front porch” while NASA’s Exploration Ground System’s Landing and Recovery team and partners from the Department of Defense aboard the USS San Diego practice recovery procedures using the Crew Module Test Article, during Underway Recovery Test 11 (URT-11) off the coast of San Diego, California on Sunday, Feb. 25, 2024. NASA/Jamie Peer When Artemis II NASA astronauts Reid Wiseman, Victor Glover, Christina Koch, and CSA (Canadian Space Agency) astronaut Jeremy Hansen return to Earth after a nearly 10-day mission around the Moon, a joint NASA and Department of Defense team led by NASA’s Exploration Ground Systems Program will be ready to retrieve them from the Orion spacecraft and ferry them onto a naval ship in the Pacific Ocean.
As Orion enters Earth’s atmosphere, the capsule will keep the crew safe as it slows from nearly 25,000 mph to about 300 mph, when its system of 11 parachutes will deploy in a precise sequence to help slow the capsule and crew to a relatively gentle 20 mph for splashdown about 60 miles off the coast of California, weather permitting.
Prior to splashdown, a team from NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston, called Sasquatch, will map where elements jettisoned from Orion such as the forward bay cover, drogue parachutes, and mortars, will land in the Ocean so the boats and helicopters supporting recovery stay clear of those areas.
NASA Artemis II crew members are assisted by U.S. Navy personnel as they exit a mockup of the Orion spacecraft in the Pacific Ocean during Underway Recovery Test 11 (URT-11) on Feb. 25, 2024, while his crewmates look on. URT-11 is the eleventh in a series of Artemis recovery tests, and the first time NASA and its partners put their Artemis II recovery procedures to the test with the astronauts.NASA/Kenny Allen Once it is safe to approach the capsule, helicopters, and a team of Navy divers in small boats, along with NASA’s open water lead, will begin making their way to the capsule. The Navy divers then will assess the environment surrounding the capsule to make sure there are no hazards present.
Teams will stabilize Orion before the crew exits the capsule in the open water by installing an inflatable collar. To safely retrieve the astronauts, the divers also will install an inflatable raft, called the front porch, under Orion’s side hatch to aid in astronaut retrieval from the capsule.
“Our highly choreographed recovery operations will help ensure the final phase of NASA’s first crewed mission to the Moon in more than 50 years ends as a success,” said Lili Villareal, NASA’s landing and recovery director.
When all four crew members are out of the capsule, the front porch is repositioned about 100 yards from Orion to allow the astronauts to be individually lifted into a helicopter and returned to the ship. Two helicopters will be deployed to retrieve the crew. The helicopters will each retrieve two crewmembers and deliver them to the deck of the naval ship.
Once on the ship, the astronauts will be transported to a medical bay for a post-mission evaluation before flying on a helicopter from the ship back to shore and then to Johnson. Teams expect to recover the crew and deliver them to the medical bay within two hours of splashdown. If the crew returns to Earth at night, teams expect the recovery activities to take a bit longer but still must meet a requirement to have the crew in the medical bay within two hours.
With the crew safely out of the capsule, teams will work on towing Orion into the well deck of the ship, using procedures similar to those used during Artemis I. Navy divers will secure a system of lines to the capsule via several connection points on a collar to help tow Orion inside the ship.
NASA’s Artemis II crew members (front to back) NASA astronauts Reid Wiseman, Victor Glover, and Christina Koch, and CSA (Canadian Space Agency) astronaut Jeremy Hansen descend the well deck of the USS San Diego as NASA’s Exploration Ground System’s Landing and Recovery team and partners from the Department of Defense aboard the ship practice recovery procedures using the Crew Module Test Article, during Underway Recovery Test 11 (URT-11) off the coast of San Diego, California on Sunday, Feb. 25, 2024. When Orion is close to the vessel, an additional line attached to a pneumatic winch will be affixed to the capsule by the divers. These ropes all work together to ensure the capsule is stable as it is slowly pulled inside the ship. A team of sailors and NASA recovery personnel inside the ship will begin manually pulling some of the lines to help align Orion with the stand it will be placed on once back on the ship.
As the sailors are pulling on the lines, NASA technicians will operate a main winch line attached to the capsule to help bring Orion inside making for a safe and precise recovery. After Orion is on a stand, the well deck will be drained of water and the ship will begin making its way back to Naval Base San Diego. Under NASA’s Artemis campaign, the agency will establish the foundation for long-term scientific exploration at the Moon, land the first woman, first person of color, and its first international partner astronaut on the lunar surface, and prepare for human expeditions to Mars for the benefit of all.
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By European Space Agency
ESA’s Hera spacecraft for planetary defence is being prepared for a journey to the distant asteroid moon Dimorphos orbiting around its parent body Didymos. One of the first features Hera will look for is the crater left on Dimorphos by its predecessor mission DART, which impacted the asteroid to deflect its orbit. Yet a new impact simulation study reported in Nature Astronomy today suggests no crater will be found. The DART impact is likely to have remodelled the entire body instead – a significant finding for both asteroid science and planetary defence.
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By European Space Agency
After 20 days in space, ESA project astronaut Marcus Wandt returned to Earth today at 13:30 GMT/14:30 CET, marking the end of his Muninn mission to the International Space Station (ISS).
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NASA’s history-making Ingenuity Mars Helicopter has ended its mission at the Red Planet after surpassing expectations and making dozens more flights than planned. While the helicopter remains upright and in communication with ground controllers, imagery of its Jan. 18 flight sent to Earth this week indicates one or more of its rotor blades sustained damage during landing, and it is no longer capable of flight.
Originally designed as a technology demonstration to perform up to five experimental test flights over 30 days, the first aircraft on another world operated from the Martian surface for almost three years, performed 72 flights, and flew more than 14 times farther than planned while logging more than two hours of total flight time.
“The historic journey of Ingenuity, the first aircraft on another planet, has come to end,” said NASA Administrator Bill Nelson. “That remarkable helicopter flew higher and farther than we ever imagined and helped NASA do what we do best – make the impossible, possible. Through missions like Ingenuity, NASA is paving the way for future flight in our solar system and smarter, safer human exploration to Mars and beyond.”
NASA to Discuss Ingenuity Mission in Media Call Today
In addition to video comments shared from Nelson about the mission’s conclusion, NASA will host a media teleconference at 5 p.m. EST today, Thursday, Jan. 25, to provide an update on Ingenuity Mars Helicopter.
Audio of the call will stream live on the agency’s website.
Participants in the call are expected to include:
Lori Glaze, director, Planetary Science Division, NASA’s Science Mission Directorate at the agency’s headquarters in Washington Laurie Leshin, director, NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Southern California Teddy Tzanetos, Ingenuity project manager, NASA JPL Media who wish to participate by phone can request dial-in information by emailing email@example.com.
Ingenuity landed on Mars Feb. 18, 2021, attached to the belly of NASA’s Perseverance rover and first lifted off the Martian surface on April 19, proving that powered, controlled flight on Mars was possible. After notching another four flights, it embarked on a new mission as an operations demonstration, serving as an aerial scout for Perseverance scientists and rover drivers. In 2023, the helicopter executed two successful flight tests that further expanded the team’s knowledge of its aerodynamic limits.
“At NASA JPL, innovation is at the heart of what we do,” said Leshin. “Ingenuity is an exemplar of the way we push the boundaries of what’s possible every day. I’m incredibly proud of our team behind this historic technological achievement and eager to see what they’ll invent next.”
Ingenuity’s team planned for the helicopter to make a short vertical flight on Jan. 18 to determine its location after executing an emergency landing on its previous flight. Data shows that, as planned, the helicopter achieved a maximum altitude of 40 feet (12 meters) and hovered for 4.5 seconds before starting its descent at a velocity of 3.3 feet per second (1 meter per second).
However, about 3 feet (1 meter) above the surface, Ingenuity lost contact with the rover, which serves as a communications relay for the rotorcraft. The following day, communications were reestablished and more information about the flight was relayed to ground controllers at NASA JPL. Imagery revealing damage to the rotor blade arrived several days later. The cause of the communications dropout and the helicopter’s orientation at time of touchdown are still being investigated.
This enhanced color view of NASA’s Ingenuity Mars Helicopter was generated using data collected by the Mastcam-Z instrument aboard the agency’s Perseverance Mars rover on Aug. 2, 2023, the 871st Martian day, or sol, of the mission. The image was taken a day before the rotorcraft’s 54th flight. After its 72nd flight on Jan. 18, 2024, NASA’s Ingenuity Mars Helicopter captured this color image showing the shadow of one of its rotor blades, which was damaged during touchdown. NASA/JPL-Caltech Triumphs, Challenges
Over an extended mission that lasted for almost 1,000 Martian days, more than 33 times longer than originally planned, Ingenuity was upgraded with the ability to autonomously choose landing sites in treacherous terrain, dealt with a dead sensor, cleaned itself after dust storms, operated from 48 different airfields, performed three emergency landings, and survived a frigid Martian winter.
Designed to operate in spring, Ingenuity was unable to power its heaters throughout the night during the coldest parts of winter, resulting in the flight computer periodically freezing and resetting. These power “brownouts” required the team to redesign Ingenuity’s winter operations in order to keep flying.
With flight operations now concluded, the Ingenuity team will perform final tests on helicopter systems and download the remaining imagery and data in Ingenuity’s onboard memory. The Perseverance rover is currently too far away to attempt to image the helicopter at its final airfield.
“It’s humbling Ingenuity not only carries onboard a swatch from the original Wright Flyer, but also this helicopter followed in its footsteps and proved flight is possible on another world,” said Ingenuity’s project manager, Teddy Tzanetos of NASA JPL. “The Mars helicopter would have never flown once, much less 72 times, if it were not for the passion and dedication of the Ingenuity and Perseverance teams. History’s first Mars helicopter will leave behind an indelible mark on the future of space exploration and will inspire fleets of aircraft on Mars – and other worlds – for decades to come.”
More About Ingenuity
The Ingenuity Mars Helicopter was built by NASA JPL, which also manages the project for NASA Headquarters. It is supported by NASA’s Science Mission Directorate. NASA’s Ames Research Center in California’s Silicon Valley and NASA’s Langley Research Center in Hampton, Virginia, provided significant flight performance analysis and technical assistance during Ingenuity’s development. AeroVironment Inc., Qualcomm, and SolAero also provided design assistance and major vehicle components. Lockheed Space designed and manufactured the Mars Helicopter Delivery System. At NASA Headquarters, Dave Lavery is the program executive for the Ingenuity Mars helicopter.
For more information about Ingenuity:
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Last Updated Jan 25, 2024 LocationNASA Headquarters Related Terms
Ingenuity (Helicopter) Missions View the full article
NASA’s Spirit and Opportunity Mars rovers landed on the Red Planet on Jan. 3 and 24, 2004, respectively. This image shows a view Opportunity captured of its own shadow on July 26 of that year, the 180th Martian day, or sol, of its mission.NASA/JPL-Caltech This month marks the 20th anniversary of Spirit and Opportunity’s landing on Mars, part of a mission whose legacy will extend far into the future.
In January 2004, twin NASA rovers named Spirit and Opportunity touched down on opposite sides of Mars, kicking off a new era of interplanetary robotic exploration. They arrived in dramatic fashion three weeks apart, each nestled in a cluster of airbags that bounced along the surface around 30 times before coming to a stop and deflating. The golf cart-size rovers’ mission: to look for evidence that water once flowed on the Red Planet’s surface.
Their findings would rewrite science textbooks, including Opportunity’s discovery soon after landing of the famous “blueberries” – spherical pebbles of the mineral hematite that had formed in acidic water. Several years into the mission, Spirit, undaunted but now dragging a damaged wheel, uncovered signs of ancient hot springs that could have been ideal habitats for microbial life billions of years ago (if any ever existed on the Red Planet).
Scientists suspected Mars had long ago been radically different than the freezing desert it is today: Orbital images had shown what looked like networks of water-carved channels. But before Spirit and Opportunity, there was no proof that liquid water had formed those features.
On the 20th anniversary of the landing of Spirit and Opportunity, celebrate NASA’s Mars Exploration Rover Project with this two-sided poster that lists some of the pioneering explorers’ accomplishments on the Red Planet.NASA/JPL-Caltech Download a free poster celebrating the 20th anniversary of the landings “Our twin rovers were the first to prove a wet, early Mars once existed,” said former project scientist Matt Golombek of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Southern California, which managed the Mars Exploration Rover mission. “They paved the way for learning even more about the Red Planet’s past with larger rovers like Curiosity and Perseverance.”
An Enduring Legacy
Thanks in part to the science collected by Spirit and Opportunity, NASA approved development of the SUV-size Curiosity rover to investigate whether the chemical ingredients that support life were present billions of years ago on what was once a watery world. (The rover found soon after its 2012 landing that they were.)
Perseverance, which arrived at the Red Planet in 2021, is building on Curiosity’s success by collecting rock cores that could be brought to Earth to check for signs of ancient microbial life through the Mars Sample Return campaign, a joint effort by NASA and ESA (European Space Agency).
While working on Spirit and Opportunity, engineers developed practices for exploring the surface that continue today, including the use of specialized software and 3D goggles to better navigate the Martian environment. And after honing years of expertise during the twin rovers’ travels over Mars’ rocky, sandy surface, engineers are able to plan safer, longer drives, and to quickly put together the far more complex daily plans required to operate Curiosity and Perseverance.
Using footage filmed at JPL when Spirit touched down on Jan. 3, 2004, as well an animation depicting the rover’s arrival at the Red Planet, this video celebrates the 20th anniversary of Mars Exploration Rover Project landings. Spirit’s twin Opportunity arrived at Mars three weeks later. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech Science team members have also become more adept in their role as virtual field geologists, drawing on years of knowledge to select the best ways to investigate Martian terrain using the robotic “eyes” and tools carried by their roving partners.
Designed to last just 90 days, Spirit landed on Jan. 3; Opportunity, on Jan. 24. The solar-powered Mars Exploration Rovers soldiered on for years – in the case of Opportunity, nearly 15 years, before succumbing to a planet-enveloping dust storm in 2018. That durability surpassed the wildest dreams of scientists and engineers, who had only expected localized exploration over a distance of no more than one-third of a mile (600 meters).
Instead, through their long-lived robotic surrogates, the team got the chance to roam a wide variety of Martian terrains. Opportunity, the first rover to go a marathon-length distance on another planet, would ultimately cover nearly 30 miles (45 kilometers) in total – the farthest distance driven on another planet.
“This was a paradigm shift no one was expecting,” said former project manager John Callas of JPL. “The distance and time scale we covered were a leap in scope that is truly historic.”
This artist’s concept depicts one of NASA’s Mars Exploration Rovers on the Red Planet. The twin rovers, Spirit and Opportunity, landed in 2004 and lasted years beyond their expected 90-day mission.NASA/JPL-Caltech The chance to see so much was critical for revealing that not only was Mars once a wetter world, but also that it supported many different kinds of watery environments – fresh water, hot springs, acidic and salty pools – at distinct points in its history.
The roving twins would also inspire a new generation of scientists. One of those was Abigail Fraeman, who was a high school student invited to JPL on the night of Opportunity’s landing. She got to watch the excitement as the first signal returned, confirming Opportunity had safely landed.
She would go on to pursue a career as a Mars geologist, returning to JPL years later to help lead Opportunity’s science team. Now deputy project scientist for Curiosity, Fraeman calls many of the people she met on Opportunity’s landing night her close colleagues.
“The people who kept our twin rovers running for all those years are an extraordinary group, and it’s remarkable how many have made exploring Mars their career,” Fraeman said. “I feel so lucky I get to work with them every day while we continue to venture into places no human has ever seen in our attempt to answer some of the biggest questions.”
More About the Mission
JPL, a division of Caltech in Pasadena, California, managed the Mars Exploration Rover Project for NASA’s Science Mission Directorate in Washington.
For more information about Spirit and Opportunity, visit:
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Last Updated Jan 17, 2024 Related Terms
Mars Exploration Rovers (MER) Jet Propulsion Laboratory Mars Mars Exploration Program Opportunity (Rover) Spirit (Rover) Explore More
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