Mars Sky Crane

At the NASA press conference today, chief engineer Adam Steltzner presented three iconic images of the space age: Armstrong’s photo of Aldrin on the lunar surface, Voyager 1’s photo of Saturn and its rings from above the ecliptic, the Hubble Space Telescope’s photo of the Eagle Nebula’s “Pillars of Creation” star-forming region. And then he added a new one.

The car-sized Perseverance rover hangs just above the surface, suspended by a bridle of three 7.5-meter nylon tethers from its powered descent stage, seconds before touchdown. The curly electrical umbilical that transported the 1s and 0s encoding the photo also dangles from the descent stage to the rover as the rockets blast regolith outward. Moments later pyrotechnics severed the tethers and umbilical, and the descent stage flew away to crash at a safe distance, leaving the rover six-wheels-on-Mars.

The car-sized Perseverance rover, suspended by tethers from its powered descent stage, a couple of meters above the surface, just seconds before touchdown, on Mars

The car-sized Perseverance rover, suspended by tethers from its powered descent stage, a couple of meters above the surface, just seconds before touchdown, on Mars

About John F. Lindner

John F. Lindner was born in Sleepy Hollow New York and educated at the University of Vermont and Caltech. He is a professor of physics and astronomy at The College of Wooster. He has enjoyed multiple yearlong sabbaticals at Georgia Tech, University of Portland, University of Hawai'i, and North Carolina State University. His research interests include nonlinear dynamics, celestial mechanics, and variable stars.
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