The weather often plays a role in our daily plans. You might put on a light jacket when the forecast calls for a cool breeze or delay your travel plans because of an impending storm. NASA engineers use weather data to inform their plans, too, which is why they're analyzing the conditions millions of miles away on Mars.
The Mars Environmental Dynamics Analyzer (MEDA) system aboard NASA's Perseverance rover first powered on for 30 minutes Feb. 19, approximately one day after the rover touched down on the Red Planet. Around 8:25 p.m. PST that same day, engineers received initial data from MEDA.
"After a nail-biting entry descent and landing phase, our MEDA team anxiously awaited the first data that would confirm our instrument landed safely," said Jose Antonio Rodriguez-Manfredi, MEDA principal investigator with the Centro de Astrobiología (CAB) at the Instituto Nacional de Tecnica Aeroespacial in Madrid. "Those were moments of great intensity and excitement. Finally, after years of work and planning, we received the first data report from MEDA. Our system was alive and sending its first meteorological data and images from the SkyCam."
MEDA weighs roughly 12 pounds (5.5 kilograms) and contains a suite of environmental sensors to record dust levels and six atmospheric conditions—wind (both speed and direction), pressure, relative humidity, air temperature, ground temperature, and radiation (from both the Sun and space). The system wakes itself up every hour, and after recording and storing data, it goes to sleep independently of rover operations. The system records data whether the rover is awake or not, both day and night.
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