Activity plans

M20Applies to the
Mars 2020 AN
MERApplies to the
MSLApplies to the
PHXApplies to the

Because Mars is too far from Earth to support real-time commanding of the landed craft, the science team regularly sends a plan of activities spanning one or more sols for automated execution. A simplified version of activity plans is presented in the Notebook for MER, MSL, and Mars 2020 rovers and for Phoenix rover. You can find them in the Sol summaries.

What plans can tell you—and what they can't

Looking through activity plans can be fun, even for non-scientists. You might find a command telling a rover to wake up or find the sun. Other commands tell instruments to make an observation or prepare to transmit data back to Earth. Some commands are for housekeeping tasks or health measures like survival heating.

No matter what commands are delivered, the plan you see in the Notebook is the plan that was expected to run. Things don't always go according to plan:

  • Events might cause some or all of the plan to not execute, such as a communications or system fault.
  • Sometimes the science team's activity plan is tweaked by engineers just before it is sent to Mars. For example, a command to place an instrument on or near a particular location might be altered slightly if the arm cannot reach (or it is not safe to try reaching) the requested spot.
  • The start and end times for an activity might be slightly different from the actual time of execution. For observations that resulted in archived data, use the times in the metadata label rather than the activity plan.

The takeaway here is that the plans tell us what the science team intended for the rover, but do not tell us which commanded activities actually completed. The "as run" results generally follow the plan you see.

Finding data related to a specific activity

Linking planned activities to resulting archive data is not as robust as we would like. Newer missions have placed more emphasis on "round trip tracking" to support connections between the plan and the data, yet inconsistencies remain. Where known, the Notebook includes links from activities to data. For MER and MSL we use a combination of the activity sequence ID and planned start time to find matching data products. The Mars 2020 team provides round trip tracking markers for most images.

Using the timeline view


The Perseverance Rover activity plans use a three-tier hierarchy: a merge set contains one or more activity groups, and each activity group comprises one or more activities. In the image below, the merge set "188 ATM" has three activity groups: NCAM Dust Survey, ZCAM Full Tau, and Margin & Cleanup. Each of the activity groups has its own activities.

The time span of the merge set encompasses all of the activity groups on the timeline. You can collapse and expand merge sets and activity groups by clicking on the arrow icons to the left of the name.

Time values in the timeline

The M20 plan timeline shows the planned activity start and end times in local true solar time (LTST) relative to the Mars rover on the given sol. As mentioned above, these times are when activities were expected to run and may not reflect an actual completed activity on Mars.

Moving through the timeline

Scroll horizontally and vertically through the timeline to view activities. Use your mouse wheel to scroll vertically (your cursor must be over the timeline grid and not over the left-hand column of titles). Clicking on a name in the left-hand column will bring the scroll the grid entry into view if it is not already visible.

Accessing details and related data

When data products can be mapped to a particular activity, the activity background color is highlighted and an instrument icon is added. For example, in the image above, Navcam and Mastcam-Z data products have been mapped to two of the activities. Clicking on either the activity name in the left-hand column or the activity entry in the grid will bring up relevant information in the right-hand detail pane. In the image below, we see the timeline with merge sets, activity groups, and activities listed in the left-hand column, the timeline grid in the middle, and activity details on the right-hand side. You can resize the detail area by dragging the vertical divider between the timeline grid and the detail area. Clicking on a data product in the activity details will open a detail window with that product.

Not all data products can be related to their source activities. The ability to make matches is restricted to unpublished metadata on the project level. We are collaborating with the science team to improve the matching.

What do all of the activity colors mean?

You might have noticed that each activity has a solid circle beside the name. Colors shown are those used in the science team planning tool. We don't currently have a table of colors and their meaning, but we are working on it.

see also