January 22, 2022

News

News Network

5 Hidden Gems Are Riding Aboard NASA’s Perseverance Rover

25 min read

The symbols, mottos, and small objects added to the agency’s newest Mars rover serve a variety of purposes, from functional to decorative.


More than halfway to the Red Planet, NASA’s Perseverance Mars rover isn’t just shuttling sophisticated science instruments and tubes to be filled with Earth-bound rock samples. It’s carrying symbols, mottos, and objects that range from practical to playful – everything from meteorite fragments to chips carrying the names of 10.9 million people.

The “extras” are part of a tradition that harks back to the early space age and is now called “festooning” in NASA lingo. A plaque aboard Pioneer 10 and 11 displays a man and a woman for distant spacefarers who might find the spacecraft. The Golden Record aboard Voyager 1 and 2 serves a similar purpose. Metal from the wreckage of the Twin Towers on 9/11 was installed on the rovers Opportunity and Spirit, while Spirit also carried a memorial to the crew of Space Shuttle Columbia.

“These kinds of embellishments add artistic elements on missions that are otherwise solely dominated by science and technology, as well as lasting tributes to colleagues who have helped pave the way for humanity’s exploration of space,” said Jim Bell of Arizona State University, who has helped festoon almost all of NASA’s Mars rovers, including Perseverance. Bell is the principal investigator of Perseverance’s Mastcam-Z, a pair of zoomable cameras that will capture gorgeous color panoramas of the Martian surface.

The 1909 penny aboard the Curiosity rover nods not just to the hundredth anniversary of the Lincoln penny, but also to how geologists often include a penny for scale when analyzing images of rock features. In fact, the object serves a similar purpose on Curiosity: Scientists use it as a calibration target – a kind of default they can use to check the settings of the Mars Hand Lens Imager camera. Because cameras frequently take images of these targets, they’re the ideal places to add a motto or decorative symbols for viewing by the public.

As with Curiosity, Perseverance was built at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Southern California, which leads the mission. Much of the festooning aboard the rover serves a dual purpose. Here are some prime examples.

Mastcam-Z Made You Look

Scientists use the color swatches on the primary calibration target for Mastcam-Z – a pair of zoomable cameras aboard NASA’s Perseverance Mars rover – to fine-tune the cameras’ settings. Symbols and mottos relevant to the mission are included around the target’s perimeter. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/ASU/MSSS/U of Copenhagen
› Full image and caption

Serving as Perseverance’s main “eyes,” Mastcam-Z is the latest in a line of instruments that Bell has helped develop. The instrument’s primary calibration target, which doubles as a sundial for educational purposes, includes color and grayscale swatches. These help scientists ensure the cameras’ color settings are correct, given that the position of the Sun and the dustiness of the sky can affect the lighting in images.

Spirit and Opportunity carried similar sundials, which bore the motto “Two Worlds, One Sun,” while Curiosity’s sundial reads, “To Mars to Explore.” Mastcam-Z’s sundial motto is “Two Worlds, One Beginning,” referring to the idea of Earth and the Red Planet growing out of the same proto-stellar dust.

Besides the motto and swatches, the sundial displays small line drawings of early life forms on Earth, including cyanobacteria, a fern and a dinosaur. There’s also a man and woman similar to those on the Pioneer plaques and the Golden Record. It’s all in tribute to Perseverance’s astrobiology mission, searching for signs of ancient microbial life on the planet’s surface.

Just out of view, on the outer edge of the calibration target, there’s a bonus inscription: “Are we alone? We came here to look for signs of life, and to collect samples of Mars for study on Earth. To those who follow, we wish a safe journey and the joy of discovery.” Surrounding the message is the phrase “Joy of Discovery” in a variety of languages.

Finding SHERLOC

The calibration target for SHERLOC, one of the instruments aboard NASA's Perseverance Mars rover, features a slice of Martian meteorite, plus spacesuit materials, including helmet-visor material that doubles as a geocache. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech
The calibration target for SHERLOC, one of the instruments aboard NASA’s Perseverance Mars rover, features a slice of Martian meteorite, plus spacesuit materials, including helmet-visor material that doubles as a geocache target. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech
› Full image and caption

To the millions of people who geocache, using their smartphone GPS to hunt for objects hidden by fellow enthusiasts, satisfaction goes hand in hand with finding the most remote geocaches. Now there’s one geocache more remote than any other: a special coin aboard Perseverance. Made of helmet-visor material and inscribed with the address of the instrument’s fictional detective namesake, it’s part of the calibration target for SHERLOC (Scanning Habitable Environments with Raman & Luminescence for Organics & Chemicals), an instrument on the end of Perseverance’s 7-foot-long (3-meter-long) robotic arm.

SHERLOC is partnered with a camera worthy of its namesake detective: WATSON (the Wide Angle Topographic Sensor for Operations and eNgineering). Whenever WATSON takes a picture of the target, geocaching fans can go looking for the images as they show up in Perseverance’s image gallery at mars.nasa.gov.

SHERLOC’s calibration target is packed with other goodies, too. In order to fine-tune the instrument’s settings, scientists added a slice of Martian meteorite. Along with the visor material, four other samples of spacesuit materials also reside on the target so that NASA can observe how they hold up on the irradiated, dusty Martian surface.

SuperCam’s Mars Meteorite

This fragment of a Martian meteorite, seen floating inside the International Space Station, is is now part of a calibration target for SuperCam, one of the instruments aboard NASA's Perseverance Mars rover. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech /LANL/CNES/ESA/Thomas Pesquet
This fragment of a Martian meteorite, seen floating inside the International Space Station, is is now part of a calibration target for SuperCam, one of the instruments aboard NASA’s Perseverance Mars rover. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech /LANL/CNES/ESA/Thomas Pesquet
› Full image and caption

As rock collectors, geologists lean toward their favorite subject for festooning. That’s why the scientists who built SuperCam selected their own slice of Martian meteorite. SuperCam is a laser instrument that zaps rocks and “soil,” then measures the resulting vapor to determine their composition. This particular piece of rock on SuperCam made a roundtrip voyage to the International Space Station before scientists added it to Perseverance.

The parts of SuperCam on Perseverance’s mast, or “head,” were provided by Centre National d’Etudes Spatiales, the French space agency, along with the meteorite.

Almost 11 Million Names

A placard on the Perseverance Mars rover commemorates NASA's
A placard on the Perseverance Mars rover commemorates NASA’s “Send Your Name to Mars” campaign. Three small chips affixed to the upper-left corner of the placard feature the names of 10,932,295 people who participated, along with the essays of the 155 finalists in NASA’s “Name the Rover” contest. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech
› Full image and caption

Since the days of Spirit and Opportunity, JPL has been providing people around the world a chance to “fly” to Mars by sending their names there. Microchips stenciled with names submitted by the public have been carried by all of NASA’s landed Mars missions going back to Pathfinder in 1997. Curiosity, the last rover to touch down on Mars, carries a microchip with 1.2 million names. Perseverance beat that, carrying three small chips stenciled with 10.9 million names. Those chips even bear the 155 finalist essays submitted for Perseverance’s “Name the Rover” contest.

Visible to the cameras on the rover’s mast, the chips share space on a metal plate located at the center of Perseverance’s aft crossbeam and adorned with a laser-etched graphic depicting Earth and Mars joined by the star that gives light to both. The phrase “Explore as one,” written in Morse code in the Sun’s rays, connects the two. But the simple illustration also connects this mission with the Pioneer and Voyager spacecraft and their festooning.

A COVID Memorial on Mars

Members of NASA's Mars 2020 Perseverance rover mission installed a plate on the left side of the rover chassis, commemorating the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic and paying tribute to the perseverance of healthcare workers around the world. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech
Members of NASA’s Mars 2020 Perseverance rover mission installed a plate on the left side of the rover chassis, commemorating the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic and paying tribute to the perseverance of healthcare workers around the world. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech
› Full image and caption

The year 2020 will be remembered for the novel coronavirus pandemic. Engineers managed to stay on course to complete building and testing Perseverance in clean rooms in California and Florida while observing pandemic-related safety precautions. The rover team wanted to recognize the challenges faced by the global community and honor the many healthcare workers who have risked their lives to help those affected by the pandemic. A special aluminum plate on the rover’s left side bears an image of planet Earth supported by the Rod of Asclepius, an ancient Greek symbol displaying a snake-entwined rod to symbolize healing and medicine.

More About the Mission

A key objective for Perseverance’s mission on Mars is astrobiology, including the search for signs of ancient microbial life. The rover will characterize the planet’s geology and past climate, pave the way for human exploration of the Red Planet, and be the first mission to collect and cache Martian rock and regolith (broken rock and dust).

Subsequent missions, currently under consideration by NASA in cooperation with the European Space Agency, would send spacecraft to Mars to collect these cached samples from the surface and return them to Earth for in-depth analysis.

The Mars 2020 mission is part of a larger program that includes missions to the Moon as a way to prepare for human exploration of the Red Planet. Charged with returning astronauts to the Moon by 2024, NASA will establish a sustained human presence on and around the Moon by 2028 through NASA’s Artemis lunar exploration plans.

JPL, which is managed for NASA by Caltech in Pasadena, California, built and manages operations of the Perseverance rover.

For more about Perseverance:

mars.nasa.gov/mars2020/

nasa.gov/perseverance

News Media Contact

Andrew Good
Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif.
818-393-2433
andrew.c.good@jpl.nasa.gov

Alana Johnson / Grey Hautaluoma
NASA Headquarters, Washington
202-672-4780 / 202-358-0668
alana.r.johnson@nasa.gov / grey.hautaluoma-1@nasa.gov

2020-230

More from:

News Network

  • Secretary Blinken Delivers Virtual Remarks at the Malmö International Forum on Holocaust Remembrance and Combating Antisemitism
    In Crime Control and Security News
    Office of the [Read More…]
  • Overseas Real Property: Prioritizing Key Assets and Developing a Plan Could Help State Manage Its Estimated $3 Billion Maintenance Backlog
    In U.S GAO News
    What GAO Found The Department of State's portfolio of overseas assets and expenditures to operate them have grown, but State-allocated funding for maintenance has stayed nearly the same. For fiscal years 2015 through 2019, both the number and square footage of State's assets increased 11 percent and operations expenditures grew 24 percent. However, maintenance and repair funding has remained nearly unchanged. For example, State's allocation for Maintenance Cost Sharing—for projects collectively funded by State and tenant agencies overseas—was $399 million in fiscal year 2016 and $400 million in 2020. GAO found that more than one-quarter of State's overseas assets are in poor condition according to State's condition standard. Further, 20 percent (almost 400) of assets that State identifies as critical to its mission are in poor condition. Federal accounting standards recognize that what constitutes acceptable asset condition may vary by the importance of specific assets to agencies' missions. However, State set a single acceptable condition standard of “fair” for all assets and did not consider whether some assets, like chancery office buildings, were more critical to State's mission when estimating its $3 billion deferred maintenance backlog. Had State set a higher condition standard for critical assets, its backlog would be higher. By reassessing its condition standard, State could determine whether to adopt an approach that considers asset importance and that could help guide maintenance funding to key assets. Condition of U.S. Embassy Manila, Philippines – Left: Chancery Office Building; Right: Chancery Courtyard Showing Maintenance Issues, Including Mold and Water Damage State follows most, but not all, leading practices for managing deferred maintenance backlogs. Of the nine leading practices, GAO found that State followed five, partially followed three, and did not follow one. For example, State has goals, baselines, and measures for its facility management performance. However, State did not specifically request funding to address the backlog in its congressional budget requests. Officials said they had not found it necessary to specifically request such funding because they only determined that the backlog had substantially increased from $96 million in fiscal year 2019 to $3 billion in fiscal year 2020 after using a new methodology for estimating deferred maintenance and repair. In addition, State does not have a plan to address the backlog, but officials estimated it could take 30 to 40 years to eliminate the backlog with current funding levels. Developing such a plan with specific information on the funding and time frames needed to reduce the backlog would help decision makers better understand how funding levels affect backlog reduction. Why GAO Did This Study State's Bureau of Overseas Buildings Operations operates and maintains over 8,500 owned and leased real property assets, including both buildings and structures. According to State, at least 60 percent of a building's total lifecycle cost stems from operations and maintenance costs. GAO has reported that deferring maintenance and repairs can lead to higher costs in the long term and pose risks to agencies' missions. GAO was asked to review State's efforts to manage its operations and maintenance needs. This report examines (1) how operations and maintenance funding for overseas assets changed from fiscal years 2016 through 2020, (2) the condition and maintenance needs of State's overseas assets, and (3) the extent to which State has followed leading practices to address its deferred maintenance backlog. GAO analyzed State data on operations and maintenance funding and asset condition, as well as documentation related to leading facility management practices. GAO also met with State officials in headquarters and in seven embassies.
    [Read More…]
  • Republic of Maldives Independence Day
    In Crime Control and Security News
    Antony J. Blinken, [Read More…]
  • Laredo men receive significant sentences for trafficking $4 million of marijuana
    In Justice News
    A 35-year-old Laredo [Read More…]
  • Virginia Attorneys Sentenced for Attempting to Extort a Multinational Chemicals Company
    In Crime News
    Two Virginia attorneys were sentenced today on federal extortion charges for their roles in a scheme to extort a multinational chemicals company by threatening to inflict substantial financial and reputational harm on the company if their demands for a $200 million payment disguised as a purported “consulting agreement” were not met.
    [Read More…]
  • Secretary Antony J. Blinken with Izumi Oguri of Nippon TV
    In Crime Control and Security News
    Antony J. Blinken, [Read More…]
  • Department Press Briefing – December 17, 2021
    In Crime Control and Security News
    Jalina Porter, Principal [Read More…]
  • Justice Department Opens Application Period for Program to Enhance Tribal Access to National Crime Information Databases
    In Crime News
    The Department of Justice is pleased to announce the opening of the application period for federally recognized Tribes to participate in the Tribal Access Program (TAP) for National Crime Information, which provides federally recognized Tribes the ability to access and exchange data with national crime information databases for authorized criminal justice and non-criminal justice purposes.
    [Read More…]
  • Djibouti National Day
    In Crime Control and Security News
    Antony J. Blinken, [Read More…]
  • Uruguay Independence Day
    In Crime Control and Security News
    Antony J. Blinken, [Read More…]
  • Deputy Attorney General Lisa O. Monaco Gives Keynote Address at ABA’s 36th National Institute on White Collar Crime
    In Crime News
    More from: October 28, [Read More…]
  • North Carolina Man Pleads Guilty to Promoting Nationwide Tax Fraud Scheme
    In Crime News
    A North Carolina man pleaded guilty yesterday to conspiring to defraud the United States by promoting a nationwide tax fraud scheme and assisting in the preparation and filing of false tax returns for the scheme’s participants. 
    [Read More…]
  • Acting Assistant Attorney General Brian C. Rabbitt Delivers Remarks Announcing Goldman Sachs/1mdb Enforcement Actions
    In Crime News
    Good Afternoon. I am Brian Rabbitt, Acting Assistant Attorney General for the Department of Justice’s Criminal Division. I am joined today by Acting U.S. Attorney Seth DuCharme of the Eastern District of New York, Assistant Director in Charge Bill Sweeney of the FBI, Stephanie Avakian, Director of the Enforcement Division at the Securities and Exchange Commission, and Assistant General Counsel for Enforcement Jason Gonzalez of the Federal Reserve Board. We are here today to announce enforcement actions of historic significance.
    [Read More…]
  • Operation Legend: Case of the Day
    In Crime News
    An Ohio man was charged on Aug. 13, 2020, in federal court in the Northern District of Ohio with illegally dealing in firearms without a federal firearms license.
    [Read More…]
  • On the Silencing and Prosecution of PRC Citizen Journalist Zhang Zhan
    In Crime Control and Security News
    Michael R. Pompeo, [Read More…]
  • Telecommunications: FCC Should Enhance Performance Goals and Measures for Its Program to Support Broadband Service in High-Cost Areas
    In U.S GAO News
    The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has a program, known as the high-cost program, to promote broadband deployment in unserved areas. Although the performance goals for the high-cost program reflect principles in the Telecommunications Act of 1996, not all of the goals are expressed in a measurable or quantifiable manner and therefore do not align with leading practices. Furthermore, FCC's measures for its performance goals do not always align with leading practices, which call for measures to have linkage with the goal they measure and clarity, objectivity, and measurable targets, among other key attributes. For example, as shown below for two of FCC's five goals, GAO found that FCC's measures met most, but not all, of the key attributes. By establishing goals and measures that align with leading practices, FCC can improve the performance information it uses in its decision-making processes about how to allocate the program's finite resources. Leading practices also suggest that agencies publicly report on progress made toward performance goals. FCC does so, however, only in a limited fashion which may lead to stakeholder uncertainty about the program's effectiveness. Examples of FCC’s Performance Measures Compared with a Selection of Key Attributes of Successful Performance Measures According to stakeholders GAO interviewed, FCC faces three key challenges to accomplish its high-cost program performance goals: (1) accuracy of FCC's broadband deployment data, (2) broadband availability on tribal lands, and (3) maintaining existing fixed-voice infrastructure and attaining universal mobile service. For example, although FCC adopted a more precise method of collecting and verifying broadband availability data, stakeholders expressed concern the revised data would remain inaccurate if carriers continue to overstate broadband coverage for marketing and competitive reasons. Overstating coverage impairs FCC's efforts to promote universal voice and broadband since an area can become ineligible for high-cost support if a carrier reports that service already exists in that area. FCC has also taken actions to address the lack of broadband availability on tribal lands, such as making some spectrum available to tribes for wireless broadband in rural areas. However, tribal stakeholders told GAO that some tribes are unable to secure funding to deploy the infrastructure necessary to make use of spectrum for wireless broadband purposes. Millions of Americans do not have access to broadband. Within the Universal Service Fund, FCC's high-cost program provided about $5 billion in 2019 to telecommunications carriers to support broadband deployment in unserved areas where the cost to provide broadband service is high. In 2011, FCC established five performance goals and related measures for the high-cost program. GAO was asked to review the high-cost program's performance goals and measures. This report examines: (1) the extent to which the program's performance goals and measures align with leading practices to enable the effective use of performance information and (2) the key challenges selected stakeholders believe FCC faces in meeting the program's goals. GAO reviewed FCC's program goals and measures and assessed them against applicable criteria, including GAO's leading practices for successful performance measures. GAO interviewed FCC officials and representatives from industry, tribal carriers, consumer advocates, and other stakeholders, to obtain a variety of non-generalizable viewpoints. GAO is making four recommendations, including that FCC should ensure its high-cost program's performance goals and measures align with leading practices and publicly report on progress measured toward the goals. FCC concurred with all four recommendations. For more information, contact Andrew Von Ah at (202) 512-2834 or vonaha@gao.gov.
    [Read More…]
  • Russian National Extradited to United States to Face Charges for Alleged Role in Cybercriminal Organization
    In Crime News
    A Russian national, residing in the Yakutsk region of Russia and in Southeast Asia, had his initial appearance in federal court today after his extradition from the Republic of Korea to the Northern District of Ohio to face charges for his alleged role in a transnational, cybercriminal organization.
    [Read More…]
  • Kuwait Travel Advisory
    In Travel
    Reconsider travel to [Read More…]
  • Fiscal Year 2022 Performance Plan
    In U.S GAO News
    This report presents the Government Accountability Office's (GAO) Performance Plan for Fiscal Year 2022. In the spirit of the Government Performance and Results Act, this annual plan informs the Congress and the American people about what we expect to accomplish on their behalf in the coming fiscal year. It sets forth our plan to make progress toward achieving our strategic goals for serving the Congress and the American people. This framework not only shows the relationship between our strategic goals and strategic objectives, but also show major themes that could potentially affect our work.
    [Read More…]
  • Department Press Briefing – March 17, 2021
    In Crime Control and Security News
    Jalina Porter, Principal [Read More…]
Network News © 2005 Area.Control.Network™ All rights reserved.