How NASA professor is controlling Mars rover Perseverance from flat above a south London hairdressers

How NASA professor is controlling Mars rover Perseverance from flat above a south London hairdressers

February 27, 2021

A NASA professor is controlling Mars rover Perseverance on the Red Planet from a one-bedroomed flat above a hairdresser.

Sanjeev Gupta, 55, should be at mission control in California but like many others, the Covid-19 pandemic has forced him to work at home — in Lewisham, south London. 

Prof Gupta told the Daily Mail: "I should be at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in California, in a series of offices each one about three times bigger than this lounge, full of hundreds of scientists and engineers with their heads buried in laptops surrounded by large screens.

"Nasa's headquarters is certainly a far cry from a one-bedroom flat."

Prof Gupta is one of the leading scientists on the £3billion life-on-Mars mission.

The geology expert at London's Imperial College and his colleagues will begin directing Perseverance to spots to drill for samples which will then be transported back to Earth in 2027 by a separate UK-backed project.

He added: "The teenage son of a friend of mine asked me if I could order the rover to do a wheelie for him. 

"I told him, 'Not with my motoring skills'."

Nasa's headquarters is certainly a far cry from a one-bedroom flat

Many of the 400 scientists are working from home because of travel restrictions that have been imposed during the third wave of the Covid pandemic. 

But because he has to work through the night, Prof Gupta has rented an apartment in Lewisham so his wife and children can enjoy undisturbed sleep in the nearby family home.

His flat has been turned into a nerve centre with five computers and two other screens for Zoom-style meetings with fellow scientists. 

Along with his team, he is working round the clock as a Mars day is 40 minutes longer than a day on Earth.

Perseverance – What’s on board?

Perseverance boasts a total of 19 cameras and two microphones, and carries seven scientific instruments.

  1. Planetary Instrument for X-Ray Lithochemistry (PIXL)

An X-ray “ray gun” that will help scientists investigate the composition of Martian rock.

2. Radar Imager for Mars' subsurface experiment (RIMFAX)

A ground-penetrating radar that will image buried rocks, meteorites, and even possible underground water sources up to a depth of 10 metres (33ft).

3. Mars Environmental Dynamics Analyzer (MEDA)

A bunch of sensors that will take readings of temperature, wind speed and direction, pressure, and other atmospheric conditions.

4. Mars Oxygen ISRU Experiment (MOXIE)

An experiment that will convert Martian carbon dioxide into oxygen. A scaled-up version could be used in future to provide Martian colonists with breathable air.

5. SuperCam

A suite of instruments for measuring the makeup of rocks and regolith at a distance

6. Mastcam-Z

A camera system capable of taking “3D” images by combining two or more photos into one.

7. Scanning Habitable Environments with Raman and Luminescence for Organics and Chemicals (SHERLOC)

From Baker Street to Mars: Sherloc contains an ultraviolet laser that will investigate Martian rock for organic compounds.

NASA has revealed a stunning high-definition panoramic image of the surface of Mars on its Instagram account.

Nasa captioned the image: "A new postcard from Mars.

"It’s glorious, it's dusty, and we love it! This high-definition panoramic image from NASA Perseverance's Mastcam-Z reveals the rim of Jezero Crater and the cliff face of an ancient river delta in the distance.

"The panorama was stitched together from 142 individual images taken on Sol 3, the third Martian day of the mission (Feb. 21, 2021)."

A post shared by NASA (@nasa)

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