NASA Perseverance Mars rover in standby mode, but healthy

NASA has confirmed that its Mars 2020 Perseverance rover is healthy and on its way to the Red Planet even after entering into a standby mode due to a temporary issue that involved temperature on the spacecraft.

The team controlling the rover is now conducting the operations necessary to move the spacecraft back out of this standby mode, known as “safe mode”, and into normal cruise mode, NASA said late on Thursday.

When a spacecraft enters safe mode, all but essential systems are turned off until it receives new commands from mission control.

“We have received telemetry (detailed spacecraft data) down from the spacecraft and have also been able to send commands up to the spacecraft. Perseverance is healthy and on its way to Mars,” NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine said in a tweet.

The US space agency launched the rover on Thursday on a United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket from Space Launch Complex 41 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida.

The spacecraft faced two issues during launch operations, according to the team controlling the Mars 2020 Perseverance rover which is based at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Southern California.

“First, the proximity of the spacecraft to Earth immediately after launch was saturating the ground station receivers of NASA’s Deep Space Network. This is a known issue that we have encountered on other planetary missions, including during the launch of NASA’s Curiosity rover in 2011,” Matt Wallace, the mission’s deputy project manager, said in a statement.

The Perseverance team worked through prepared mitigation strategies that included detuning the receivers and pointing the antennas slightly off-target from the spacecraft to bring the signal within an acceptable range, Wallace said.

“We are now in lock on telemetry after taking these actions,” Wallace added.

The second issue involves temperature on the spacecraft.

“As the spacecraft entered into Earth’s shadow, the Sun was temporarily blocked by Earth, and the outlet temperature dropped. This caused the difference between the warm inlet and cooler outlet to increase. This transient differential tripped an alarm and caused the spacecraft to transition into the standby mode known as ‘safe mode,'” Wallace said.

NASA could not create this exact environment for tests prior to launch, nor did it have flight data from Curiosity, because its trajectory had no eclipse.

“Safe mode is a stable and acceptable mode for the spacecraft, and triggering safe mode during this transitional phase is not problematic for Mars 2020,” Wallace said.