Stuc a' Chroin and Ben Vorich

Stuc a' Chroin and Ben Vorich

Tuesday, 23 February 2021

Saturday, 20 February 2021

Thursday 18 February 2021 - Perseverance has landed..


Perseverance about to touch down on Mars. The three Sky Crane tethers can be seen and the umbilical providing communications and power to the rover is on the right. NASA/JPL

Well, after 480 million kilometres Perseverance landed on the Red Planet on Thursday at 8.55pm GMT in Jezero Crater, just 2km south east of the delta, and is tilted only 1.2 degrees. It has been an exciting journey with EDL being the usual '7 minutes of terror'. I supplied the peanuts and Lynne the Mars Bar (!) as well as a new Perseverance NASA -T shirt. My name is forever more on Mars.

The Mars helicopter Ingenuity located on the belly of the rover has communicated with Earth via the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter and both it and the base station on the rover are operating nominally. Ingenuity is not part of the main mission but a technology demonstration and will remain on the rover for 30 to 60 days. It will attempt the first powered flight on another planet and where the atmospheric volume is less than 1% of Earth's and is composed primarily of carbon dioxide - 96%.

Ingenuity - illustration NASA/JPL

One of Perseverance's wheels on the surface to Mars. NASA/JPL

With 11 million others whose names are on Perseverance, I'm looking forward to my journey in Jezero Crater and hoping for some exciting discoveries. 

Monday, 7 September 2020

Wednesday, 19 August 2020

Wednesday 19 August - Mars 2020 Mars Ingenuity Helicopter

On 7 August, one week into its journey, Mars helicopter charged its batteries in flight for the first time in a space environment. It took eight hours for engineers at JPL to analyse the performance of the six lithium-ion batteries and bring their charge up to 35%, a low level charge state having been shown to be optimal for battery health during the nearly seven month long cruise to Mars.

The operation will be repeated every two weeks or so to maintain the optimal charge.

"This charge activity shows we have survived the launch and that so far we can handle the harsh environment of interplanetary space", said MiMi Aung, Ingenuity Mars Helicopter project manager at JPL. "We have a lot more firsts to go before we can attempt the first experimental flight test on another planet, but right now we are all feeling good about the future"

The helicopter will have a 30 Martian day (31 Earth days) flight test window and if successful will prove that powered flight is possible on another planet. This will allow for possible future aerial explorations of Mars with a second generation rotorcraft. (NASA JPL-Caltech) 

                                                                Courtesy NASA JPL - Caltech

And wait... I have had Perseverance and Ingenuity in our garden and sitting room. The following photographs are not photoshopped but are taken using an app from JPL. Sizing is unfortunately limited by the iPhone's screen size. 

Index to Mars 2020 posts: here

Wednesday, 5 August 2020

Wednesday 3 June - Glen Bee and Hill of Kinpauch (Kinpauch Hill on OS Maps)

A few days earlier we had enjoyed a fine traverse of the hills above Glen Sherup and from our lunch spot on the broad ridge above the Broich Burn, between Frandy and Burnfoot Hill, we could see that Upper Glendevon Reservoir was very low, perhaps even lower than during our last long spell of drought conditions in the summer of 2014. We knew that a closer look could be combined with a walk through Glen Bee to Hill of Kinpauch which we hadn't climbed for a couple of years, so that was our plan for the next day.

There was no rush, so after an hour or so of walking we paused for early morning tea by the unnamed burn that gently tumbles from a secretive little glen into the lower reservoir  There are many such burns not named on the 1:50 map which are on the 1:25 map but this is not one of them, so I must do a bit of research to see if I can solve these minor mysteries. Swallows entertained us, skimming above the bracken and water, gathering up insects. As always in such a setting it was hard to move on, but move we must.

It's all fairly rough going through heather and bracken to the dam, with only the occasional sheep trod to follow so another stop for tea at a favourite spot was welcome. Glen Bee is part of an old packhorse route and now a fairly popular walk from Tillicoultry to Blackford, home of Highland Spring mineral water. Unfortunately to reach Blackford the very busy A9 has to be crossed so beware. The name Glen Bee is possibly from the Gaelic 'Gleann na Bighe', glen of the post or pillar. Presumably a stone or post marked the route at one time. Perhaps submerged by the reservoir now? Anyone know?

Some delightful walking above the reservoir on a grassy path took us into Glen Bee and so to the watershed, where a farm track begins its descent to Blackford by Glen of Kinpauch and the Braes of Ogilvie. For a time this route follows the Glen Burn on its way to meet the Danny Burn which eventually passes west of Blackford village to join Allan Water. In addition to being the home of Highland Spring since 1979, the beautiful malt whisky Tullibardine is made here. Originally a brewery, the conversion to a distillery was begun in 1947. Highland Spring and the Tullibardine both use water drawn from the Danny Burn.

We were neither going to Blackford nor down to the Danny Burn but staying high, so took time to enjoy the views across Strath Allan to the hills beyond. And enjoy them from a distance was all we could do, sadly, since the five miles or so travelling restriction was still in force.

Then onwards we went through the summer heather which completely covered the narrow path that normally contours round our hill. We both enjoy rough walking like this and it didn't take long to reach the northern slopes leading to the blustery summit. Oddly, for a hill so accessible from Blackford, we have never met anyone else here and today was no different.

After the usual photographs we returned by our outward route rather than over the tops, though we initially set off in that direction before deciding to plunge down the heathery slopes for the path back to Glen Bee.  Another fine and satisfying day in the Ochils.

Note: OS Map names the hill 'Kinpauch Hill' but the glen being "Glen of Kinpauch", we prefer Hill of Kinpauch which I'd guess is the correct local name.

The reservoir wasn't as low as in 2014 but would be a few weeks later

Glen Bee

The track drops into Glen of Kinpauch to Blackford

Leaving the cairn before descending the heather slopes on photograph number 5. Alternatively a return can be made via Craigentaggert Hill over tussocky, trackless terrain which is an enjoyable alternative to retracing steps.

Tuesday 4 August - NASA-JPL Index to Mars 2020, Perseverance posts.

Not quite on Mars yet!

Perseverance showing location of plate with names

Index. Will be added to when new posts on Perseverance appear and a link given to this index on each post.

1 I'm off to Mars

Sunday, 2 August 2020

Thursday 30 July - NASA-JPL A perfect launch and Perseverance is on her way to the Red Planet

Note: there are likely to be quite a lot of these sort of posts in the coming months, primarily as a personal record of this important mission. My name being on one of the chips attached to Perseverance adds another dimension of course. I've already signed up to the next part of the mission in 2026 (and Lynne is coming with me!) - The Mars Sample Return Campaign, but more of that much later on. I hope some readers will find something of interest here, but I've not given up on the walking posts!

ULA's Atlas V-541 lifts off at 7.50am  (EDL) on 30 July carrying the Mars Rover 2020, Perseverance  

The whole event was streamed on NASA's YouTube Channel covering the launch and the rover's separation from the upper stage of the Atlas V to begin its six and a half month voyage to Mars. It's the best viewing I've had in years with interviews with the many engineers and scientists involved and presented by Dr Moo Cooper of JPL and Derrol Nail, Space Coast reporter, two of the most enthusiastic presenters you could hope for.

The upper stage's Centaur engine initially placed the 2020 rover into a parking orbit around Earth at T+ 0:11:27:9 then, after a 33 minute coast over the Atlantic and crossing South Africa, the Centaur re-ignited its RL-10C-1 engine, shutting down at T + 0:52:50:1. The burn, lasting almost 8 minutes accelerated the Mars 2020 spacecraft to escape velocity.

After reaching 24,785mph, the Centaur upper stage shut down and re-orientated itself into the position for release of the spacecraft. At T+ 0:57:32.8 Perseverance, enclosed in its aeroshell, separated from the Centaur upper stage over Indonesia. Twenty minutes later the first signals from the spacecraft were expected through a NASA tracking station in Canberra, Australia. Navigation data indicated that Perseverance was perfectly on course.

During the post-launch press briefing a couple of issues came to light:

First, the proximity of the space craft to Earth was saturating the ground station receivers of NASA's Deep Space Network which are tuned to receive faint signals from deep space. The receivers were therefore detuned and the antennas pointed slightly off-target from Perseverance thus bringing the signal within acceptable range. Telemetry (detailed data from the spacecraft) was restored. (See Tweet from Perseverance)

Secondly, data indicated that the spacecraft had entered safe mode as it passed over the night side of the Earth, a period known as an eclipse, becoming a bit colder than expected. All but essential systems turned off and safe mode was entered. The spacecraft is designed to put itself in safe mode if onboard computers detect that conditions are not within set parameters. 

NASA later said that the temperature disparity was in the liquid freon coolant loop, which dissipates heat from the centre of the spacecraft through radiators on the module carrying the rover to Mars. Modelling by the team at JPL predicted that this might happen but it was not possible to create the exact environment for pre-launch tests and no flight data from Curiosity Rover, launched in November 2011, was available since its trajectory did not include an eclipse.

Programmers had therefore set tight limits on key spacecraft parameters before launch and the cold conditions probably tripped a preset limit. Better a spacecraft go into safe mode, a stable and acceptable mode even when not required, than fail to do so when critical. It's not a problem and controllers tested then sent commands to bring the spacecraft back to nominal flight operations. 

Now on its interplanetary cruise, with several Trajectory Correction Manoeuvers (TCMs) along the way, the next stop is Jezero Crater. 

There may be many things wrong in the USA at the moment (they are not alone), but NASA's space programme, whether involving human or robotic exploration, is not one of them. 

Thanks to NASA-JPL for a superb broadcast and an inspirational endeavour. Go Perseverance!!

Animation : Centaur engine burn 2 (courtesy and for the Timeline

Module carrying Perseverance separates from Centaur upper stage (courtesy

Courtesy NASA

Perseverance and Ingenuity helicopter being enclosed in the aeroshell which will carry it safely to the Red Planet. (Courtesy NASA-JPL Caltech)

The name plate on board Perseverance - three chips top left

A tweet from Perseverance!

The Control Centre at JPL

Thanks to NASA-JPL's, Mars 2020 Deputy Project Manager, Matt Wallace for providing details of the 'issues' encountered by Perseverance and to Stephen Clark at for the timeline.

Thursday, 30 July 2020

Thursday 30 July - NASA-JPL Mars Rover Perseverance is on the launch pad

The Atlas V on Pad 41 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Base. The large cone at the top houses Perseverance. (Courtesy NASA)

United Launch Alliance's Atlas V booster carrying NASA-JPL's Mars 2020 Rover, Perseverance, is due to launch from Pad 41at 7.30 am EDL (12.50 pm our time) today. Live broadcast begins 12 noon our time. Although I'm aboard in name only, I'm just (but not quite) as excited as if I were personally about to journey the 313,649,586 miles to Mars.

Monday, 27 July 2020

Monday 27 July - NASA-JPL Mars Perseverance launch date 30 July

The nose cone containing Mars Perseverance rover is manoeuvred onto its Atlas V rocket. Courtesy NASA/JPL - Caltech
The Mars Rover, Perseverance, was attached to the top of a United Launch Alliance Atlas V booster on Tuesday 7 July, along with the aeroshell, cruise stage and descent stage.

The original launch date of 20 July was delayed after a line of oxygen sensors that monitors the levels of liquid oxygen propellant in the vehicle, gave back off-nominal data. The problem has been fixed and the launch window extends now to 15 August. Fingers crossed for 30 July.

I have now had my Boarding Pass stamped as I join 10.9 million people, whose names have been stencilled onto three chips on Perseverance, on a journey to Mars landing at Jezero Crater on February 18 2021.

Saturday, 18 July 2020

Saturday 18 July - Moronic behaviour at Muir of Dinnet Nature Reserve

We often visit this small Reserve when on holiday in Braemar and were appalled when we read Catriona's recent post. Here's the link

I'm sure you will be as appalled as we were, but perhaps not any more surprised.