Communications with Earth

After landing on Mars, the Perseverance rover will rely on the Mars Relay Network orbiters overhead to keep in touch with engineers on Earth, just like the two current NASA missions already on the surface of the Red Planet--the Curiosity rover and InSight lander.

Perseverance will transmit images and other data to the Mars Relay Network, which will then beam the information down to Earth via the Deep Space Network antennas.

Mars Relay Network

Image of spacecraft orbiters revolving around Mars
Mars Now: This visualization shows the current location and communication activity of all operating landers, rovers, and orbiters at Mars that transmit data to Earth via NASA's Mars Relay Network. View interactive ›

This Mars Relay Network includes all the NASA orbiters: Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter, Mars Odyssey, and MAVEN; and two ESA missions: ExoMars Trace Gas Orbiter (TGO) and Mars Express.

To prepare for the arrival of Perseverance at Mars, these five orbiter missions are performing a variety of test and training activities to ensure that relay support for the new rover goes smoothly. As the orbiters circle Mars, they can “talk” to the rover when they fly over it and relay messages home. This international collaboration will be key to handling the tremendous volume of data from Perseverance, more than that of the Curiosity rover and the InSight lander combined. Relay services are coordinated by NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory.

During landing, Perseverance will transmit data via the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO) and MAVEN. Entry, descent, and landing data will be captured via MRO and MAVEN in near-real-time, although data transmitted via MAVEN will require extensive ground processing after landing. Once on the ground, the rover will continue to communicate via MRO and MAVEN, in addition to the rest of the Mars Relay Network, at least twice a day—typically four to six times. During those communication sessions, data and images will be sent to the team at JPL to enable the team to plan for the day ahead.

NASA’s Deep Space Network

Image of the Deep Space Network antennas taken at Goldstone, California.
Deep Space Network Antenna: Image taken at the Goldestone Deep Space Communications Complex, located in the Mojavie Desert in California. Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech.
Full image and caption ›

Some of the Perseverance images and data transmitted to Earth via the Mars Relay Network will arrive at NASA's Deep Space Network (DSN). This international network of antennas provides communication links between planetary exploration spacecraft and their mission teams on Earth.

The Deep Space Network consists of three deep-space communications satellite dish complexes placed approximately 120 degrees apart around the world: at Goldstone, in California's Mojave Desert; near Madrid, Spain; and near Canberra, Australia. This strategic placement permits constant links to distant spacecraft even as Earth rotates on its own axis.

This process of communicating Perseverance data from the Martian surface, to orbiters above Mars, to large, sophisticated satellite dishes on Earth, will help us follow the adventures and discoveries of the rover.