JPL DESCANSO - Deep Space Communications and Navigation Center of Excellence

The Tale of MER's Entry, Descent, and Landing - A Telecom Point of View

Presented by:
Dr. Polly Estabrook
Lead Telecom System Engineer, MER (331))


MER's Entry, Descent and Landing is harrowing from the sheer number of events that must occur autonomously on board the vehicle for landing to be safely accomplished. In less than 30 minutes, MER morphs from a spacecraft to an aeroshell, to a complex two-, then three-body form falling furiously through the Martian atmosphere, to a balloon encased tetrahedron jerked to a standstill then cut loose to bounce precipitously on the unknown terrain below. During these breathtaking minutes, telecom's task is to relay enough information about the spacecraft's state so that its progress through the metamorphosis can be inferred in real time and reconstructed more precisely immediately post-EDL.

In this talk the challenges confronting the designers of the MER EDL telecom system will be discussed and the performance of the Spirit and Opportunity X band communication links to the Deep Space Network and the UHF communication links to the Mars Global Surveyor spacecraft will be given. MER animations will be shown to illustrate some of the potential obstacles facing future EDL system designers.

The Speaker

Polly Estabrook was the lead telecom system engineer for the Mars Exploration Rover. She was responsible for the performance of the MER Entry Descent and Landing telecommunications system and for the overall design and performance of the Direct to Earth and Relay communications system. She is the group supervisor of the Advanced Communications Systems Concepts Group in the Communications Systems and Research Section at JPL.

Viewgraph Package   pdf

6 minutes of Terror (mpg - 17mb)   Video