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Mars 2020 Spacecraft, Carrying JPL’s Perseverance Rover, Contacts Earth for 1st Time During Flight

Published on Thursday, October 22, 2020 | 12:11 pm
Engineers install MEDLI2 sensors on NASA Mars 2020 spacecraft,which is currently carrying the Jet Propulsion Laboratory’s Perseverance rover to the Red Planet, in an undated photo provided by Lockheed Martin.

NASA’s Mars 2020 spacecraft carrying Jet Propulsion Laboratory’s Perseverance rover to the Red Planet has sent back data for the first time since its launch nearly three months ago, from a distance of well over a million miles, according to JPL.

An array of sensors used to measure the heating of the spacecraft as it plummets through the Martian atmosphere were powered up and tested on Oct. 8, JPL said in a written statement. The sensors are collectively known as the Mars Entry, Descent, and Landing Instrumentation 2, or MEDLI2.

“During the recent MEDLI2 cruise checkout, the team at the Flight Mission Support Center at NASA’s Langley Research Center in Hampton, Virginia, received data back from the spacecraft for the first time since the rover launched in July,” the statement said.

The system was put through a series of tests to make sure it would survive the rough conditions of launch and traveling through interplanetary space prior to being installed on the spacecraft’s heat shield, according to JPL.

This month’s test confirmed the sensors were still in good shape, according to MEDLI2 Project Manager Henry Wright.

“This is the first time MEDLI2 has been tested since before launch,” he said. “The test went great; we got the data we wanted, and everything looks like we predicted it would.”

“With this verification that MEDLI2 survived launch and the cold of deep space, the team is excited to support the Perseverance rover’s landing in February,” Wright said.

The MEDLI2 project on the JPL-built-and-designed Perseverance Rover is led by NASA and managed by the Langley Research Center, in partnership with JPL and NASA’s Ames Research Center.

Perseverance is scheduled to touch down on Mars on Feb. 18.

More information about the mission is available online at

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