I came here to work every day for nine years, seven of which we’re working on the last rover we sent to mars named curiosity. So today, we’re gon na talk to some of my old friends and see the actual rover up close as i bring you up to speed on everything you need to know about this rover landing, because once you have an overview of what’s gon na happen and what It even took to get us to this point. I feel certain you’re gon na feel just as pumped about this historic landing as i am, and to accomplish that we’re gon na talk about the who, what why, where and how of this rover we’ll start with the? Why and the where we’re going 3.5 billion years ago, earth and mars were pretty similar, both had liquid water, the surface and both were protected from the sun’s radiation with magnetic fields, and so it begs the question: if life first developed on earth at that time, could It have also developed on mars, so this is a massive lake in jezreel crater billions of years ago, and this is it now. This is where perseverance is landing. The bottom of an ancient lake, the size of lake tahoe, because using earth as a guide at the base of a river of fresh water, is where scientists believe we have the best chance of finding evidence of past biological life on mars. So, thanks to perseverance, we could be on the verge of the monumental first discovery of actual life outside our planet and being able to pinpoint a landing spot.
This tight shows how nasa is constantly advancing its technologies with florida for scale here’s an oval showing the uncertainty of the landing spot for previous missions pathfinder in 1997 and then phoenix in 2008 curiosity in 2012 and now perseverance being able to shrink down a landing target. Just gives you way more options of interesting places to land plus once you do land and start driving towards the actual science location, it can shave off a year or more of drive time. Not only does studying mars like this help us understand earth’s, past and future, but the rovers we’re sending are the advanced scouts, taking data and notes for us on the ground and sending all the info back to earth. They’Re also testing some new technologies, which i’ll cover in a second that humans will need to use when we’re exploring the planet ourselves in the very near future. Because the first person to set foot on mars is alive right now, and it could be you and if none of that gets your heart, pumping and you’re like but mark, why would we spend resources and time exploring the solar system when we still have big issues Here on this earth we haven’t solved. I tackled that exact question, giving five reasons we can’t afford not to invest in space in another video. You can watch after this one, so that’s the where and the. Why now let’s talk about how we’re going to do all that? Because this is where it gets really wild meet perseverance, and i should mention i have my monthly videos all planned out about a year in advance, which is why, exactly this time last year, i knew for this video i needed to fly down to check out the Rover right before it got shipped off to florida to be launched, but before i checked out the rover, i first stopped in to see ben who was my old boss.
When i was here, he was leading a small team that designed the jet pack that lowered the rover to the ground. But now i heard he’s all fancy in charge of like 400 people. So i wanted to get a sense of how things had changed for him. So anyone we see walk by you can like boss them around about this guy right. Here you can boss him around yeah. I can bust him around. Okay cool! Go on. We first geeked out for a bit over a bunch of examples of parts from previous space missions and a hardware wall like this is just a great illustration of what makes jpl such a cool place to work. Actually i designed this – this is my hardware from grail with andy. This was cool because you got these like flexures for like temperature variation, so this isn’t just for show. This is like literally when you’re trying to figure out a way to do things. These are examples of how it’s been done before right right and a lot of these are made by examples of this is the way you shouldn’t do it, oh, so that’s, why my hardware that’s, why your hardware’s up there right after that, we headed down to check Out the rover and meet up with my friend emily, but before we could just go in and see it, we had to get suited up because the rover is looking for signs of biological life and we don’t want to contaminate our samples before we even arrive.
So a bunny suit and air shower can go a long way emily by the way, was the vehicle assembly lead for the descent and cruise stages, which is a big responsibility. This is the rover, the flight rover. It will be on mars, 12 months from now it’s. So complex when you come up and get this close, in fact, perseverance is the most complex thing humans have ever built and sent to another planet. It’S got laser x, ray and radar capabilities, plus 19 cameras and a nuclear powered battery system for energy, and while it might look pretty similar to the past river curiosity, all the science instruments are completely different because the science objectives have changed. The most notable difference is this time. The drill isn’t there just to create rock dust to study on the rover. Perseverance has a hollow drill bit to core out a chunk of rock the size of a piece of chalk and then package it up and leave behind. 43 separate samples for a future mission to collect and send back to earth that way, we could study the samples for those past signs of life using the most state of the art instruments on earth that we could never fit on a rover so then to capture That chalk size rock sample, not only is there an arm on the outside, but this time there’s one on the inside too. It is a miniature robot arm inside the body of the rover that manipulates the sample, tube and there’s one right here, wow, and so is this what you leave behind exactly? Is it fair to say this is like the poop of the rover? Exactly okay.
Do you like that analogy because they didn’t like it earlier yeah you like it? We do like to say that the rover’s gon na poop, outside okay, good, see that’s a good analogy. So perseverance is really only the first leg of returning a piece of mars to earth. Future missions will complete what i like to call the poop scoop and shoot maneuver. This is my friend liz by the way and she’s in charge of all the testing for the sample. Retrieval system we’re doing things that nobody else does so we have to test it. So she tests all sorts of different configurations in a chamber that recreates the extreme temperatures and pressures to make sure it will function on mars, because once you send something to space, it’s gone and you can’t exactly fix it. So it just has to work, which is why testing is such a big deal here at jpl. My buddy matt here mentioned another way this is done so we build two spacecraft, one that goes to mars and one that we keep here on earth to test, and this is an exact replica of curiosity, who’s driving around on mars right now, and then we use This one to test driving around obstacles and driving over rocks, and he knows a thing or two about driving over rocks because he was a rover driver for both opportunity and curiosity. This guy is like one of maybe 40 people in the world who has driven a vehicle on another planet which is kind of a big deal, and so a few more cool things about perseverance are that it has a mini helicopter drone stowed away on its underbelly Named ingenuity, this will be mankind’s first powered flight on another planet, which sort of makes this a wright brothers moment.
The rover and the drone will get great footage of each other, but we’re mainly testing it out, so that in the future we might use drones to scout out terrain for us or get samples from hard to reach locations, or you could have swarms of drones, carrying Materials for humans from one site to another perseverance, is also testing out a new instrument called moxie that basically amounts to a mechanical tree because its function is to convert co2 into oxygen, which future explorers will need to breathe and for rocket fuel. The rover has been in this clean room for about a year and a half starting as just a chassis, just the skeleton, and then all the teams and engineers have been taking turns coming down and building up their part until it’s done. In fact, i was in that exact position on curiosity, designing my hardware for about three and a half years and when it was all tested and complete integrating it on the rover right here in this room and then for the other three and a half years like I mentioned before i was working with ben on a small team of engineers on the jetpack descent stage, so now we’ve covered the where and the. Why we’re going also the how we’re gon na do all that with the rover now let’s talk about the? What for what’s gon na happen this thursday, when it lands and what you should expect to see as i edit this video, the spacecraft is gliding toward mars at a cool 48 144 miles per hour.
How fast is that it’s, this fast it’s 15 times faster than a bullet it’s traveling the length of 100 soccer fields in exactly this long, and it will keep on that trajectory until the big moment on thursday when it starts its entry, descent and landing or edl It’S also known as the seven minutes of tear, because we’ve literally got seven minutes to get from the top of the atmosphere to the surface of mars, going from thirteen 000 miles per hour to zero in perfect sequence and perfect timing. And the spacecraft has to do it all on its own, with no help from us on earth when it first hits the upper atmosphere. The friction causes the heat shield to start glowing like the surface of the sun. All the while thrusters are firing to steer and adjust its course towards the target location and that arrow breaking gets rid of 99 of the energy. So for the last one percent we deploy a supersonic parachute. Then we’ve got to pop off the heat shield. We no longer need like removing a lens cap, so the radar can start viewing the ground, but even with the parachute it’s still traveling 200 miles per hour, which is way too fast to land and so that’s, where we cut loose of the back shell and fire. The rockets, but we can’t quite land in this configuration because the rockets will kick up too much debris and damage the rover.
So then we lower it from a 21 foot, rope and gently land. The rover on the surface, as my sky crane zooms off to face an honorable, catastrophic, ending as far away from the rover as its remaining fuel will carry it, and so in just seven minutes. The spacecraft has completely metamorphosized, shedding all its sacrificial elements until you’re left, with just a rover sitting alone safely. On the surface of mars. Now everything you just saw was a cgi animation, but a few days after landing, we’ll all be blown away by actual hd landing footage from the 23 cameras and two microphones on board. We’Ll see the parachute inflate and hear the crunch of the aluminum wheels as they touch down and make contact with the martian surface and because mars is so far away to get a signal from the vehicle to our planet. It takes about 12 minutes at the speed of light, so that means, after the spacecraft sends a signal that has reached the top of the atmosphere by the time that signal reaches earth to kick off the seven minutes of tear for at least five minutes. The vehicle has actually already been on the surface, either alive or dead, which is why it has to be autonomous. That means it makes all its own choices on the exact timing of things and where to steer without anyone from earth controlling it, which means all we can do is watch and monitor and hope – and this is a good time to remember that as easy as these Dedicated teams of engineers make it look landing on mars is really hard.
Historically only about half the attempts have been successful, but the willingness to take big risks to reap big rewards is the foundation on which nasa is built. The live stream to watch the landing starts on thursday february 18th. At 11, 15 am pacific. It will hit the top of the atmosphere an hour and a half later at 12 48 pm, which starts to seven minutes of tear, and we touch down at 12 55.. I will leave a link to the live stream in the video description, as well as some other really cool sites such as this video game, like demo, where you can interactively experience the seven minutes of tear in preparation for the landing we covered the where and the. Why we’re going we covered the? How with the rover and the what, with the landing details now it’s time for the who, the human side to sending robot explorers to other planets? What makes nasa and jpl really great aren’t its robots, it’s the people who build them and, while it’s not really possible for me to capture what it’s gon na feel like for them to see at land this thursday. The best i can do is to show you what it felt like for me. Eight years ago, when i was in a very similar situation, i made a video when curiosity landed, but at the time my channel had less than 100 000 subscribers. So i know that most of you haven’t seen this footage, but even if you have, with the landing less than a week away, it’s a great time for a second watch to get you pumped up and for context here, you should know that during my time i Was working on the rover, i had a son and lost my mom to als and while my contribution was small relative to the overall picture, i tried to capture the human element here of what it feels like to basically have seven years of your life and career Vindicated with that beautiful phrase, touchdown confirmed we are safe on mars.
So with that, consider this my tribute to everyone out there working to push the limits of human understanding with a little bit of help from adorable little young mark grover, so we’re still two days from landing. But you see the news. Media has already started to descend on jpl here since we’re all kind of nervous around here and our office pools look a little different than most. This is uh the landing ellipse for the rover and we all kind of place guesses on where we think it’s going to come down. So we’re headed down to nasa jpl to hang out with everyone and watch the landing so it’s, pretty exciting kind of stick to my stomach. At the same time, basically, seven years of my life and career come down to about seven minutes kind of freaking out Music. I owe half my chromosomes Music when mark gets nervous, he starts shivering like he’s freezing right now, it’s, probably about 85 degrees out here, so he’s really nervous Music and we Music dynamic space come back Music. We are in power, flight sky, green touchdown, confirmed, we’re, safe Music, so Applause Music. It was honestly a moving experience to see that picture come up that show just the shadow rovers dominating the martian landscape, it’s. Just a crazy thought. I think that it’s something i’ve i’ve designed i’ve, touched i’ve, built i’ve integrated i’ve tested, is now safely resting on another freaking planet, which is it’s a crazy feeling Music.
I want to thank bill and melinda gates for partnering with me on this video. They recently released the brand new gates annual letter and i will leave a link to it in the video description. One of the parts of the letter that resonated with me is when they talked about how the coronavirus pandemic will be the defining moment of our generation. In the same way that world war ii is the defining moment of today’s older generation and just like after world war ii, when countries work together to prioritize the common good, we all now have an opportunity to turn the lessons of this pandemic into a healthier future. For everyone – and i share their optimism – that as a global community we’re not only starting to round the corner on this pandemic, but we will emerge from it stronger that the same type of collective, coordinated efforts that go into returning rocks from other freaking planets can go Into solutions that will make us much better prepared around the world for such an event in the future, so thanks to bill and melinda gates for their constant advocacy on global health, thanks to everyone who helped with perseverance, pushing the limits of humankind.