It’s landing day. NASA’s Perseverance Rover landing on the Red Planet.
The rover spent the last seven months flying the roughly 202 million kilometers distance to Mars on a quest to find signs of ancient life. Later today (Feb. 18/19), the mission will begin a daring “seven minutes of terror“-type descent, and if all goes well, its wheel touchdown will signal the beginning of the most powerful rover yet to roam the Martian surface.
Perseverance will broadcast information back in high-definition 4K, set aside promising rock samples for a sample-return mission and launch the first interplanetary helicopter — all while photographing, laser-targeting and investigating targets in the ancient delta of Jezero Crater.
NASA’s Perseverance rover is racing toward Mars for a daring high-speed plunge into the Red Planet’s atmosphere Thursday, ready to use a heat shield, a supersonic parachute, and braking rockets for a pinpoint touchdown on a dried-up river delta that may harbor clues about the potential for past life.
The nuclear-powered robot has one shot to make the landing. Ground teams at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, will track the spacecraft’s arrival at Mars. Controllers expect to receive confirmation of Perseverance’s landing at 3:55 p.m. EST (2055 GMT) Wednesday.
The $2.7 billion mission’s primary goals are to search for signs of ancient life on Mars and collect rock specimens for return to Earth by a future spacecraft. The 2,260-pound (1,025-kilogram) Mars 2020 Perseverance rover will become the most sophisticated vehicle to ever land on Mars, carrying seven science instruments, 25 cameras, the first microphones to fly to another planet, and a small rotorcraft to demonstrate a capability to fly through the Red Planet’s thin carbon dioxide atmosphere.
“Before we can get that surface mission going, we have to land safely on Mars, and that is always a challenging feat for us,” said Matt Wallace, the rover’s deputy project manager at JPL, in a press conference Wednesday. “This is one of the most difficult maneuvers we do in the space business. Almost 50% of the spacecraft that have been sent to the surface of Mars failed. So we know we have our work cut out for us tomorrow to get down to the surface safely at Jezero Crater.
“We’re going to ballistically approach the planet at about 20,000 kilometers an hour, and the trick we have to perform is to slow down to just a couple miles an hour so that we can gently touch the vehicle down on the surface,” Wallace said. “That all has to happen in about seven minutes, and it all has to happen autonomously. Perseverance really has to fight her way down to the surface on her own. It’s something like a controlled disassembly of the spacecraft.”
The seven-minute descent, sometimes known as the “seven minutes of terror,” will cap a journey of 471 million kilometers from a launch pad at Cape Canaveral, where the rover blasted off July 30 aboard a ULA Atlas 5 rocket.
Watch the Feb. 18/19 Perseverance Rover Landing Broadcast
NASA live coverage begins at Feb. 19, 12:45 AM IST(Feb. 18, 2:15 PM EST)
- Main Commentary: embedded below.
- 360-degree Stream: for an immersive look at our control room try the 360-degree view
- For clean feed click here.
Read more about Perseverance Rover:
- EVERYTHING YOU NEED TO KNOW ABOUT PERSEVERANCE ROVER LANDING
- NASA’S NEXT GEN MARS 2020: PERSEVERANCE ROVER
- WRIGHT BROTHERS MOMENT FOR NASA’S MARS HELICOPTER
- 7 MINUTES OF TERROR: PERSEVERANCE ROVER’S RISKY MARS LANDING
- NASA’S AND ESA’S MARS ROVERS TO BRING SAMPLES BACK TO HOME FROM MARTIAN SURFACE