Rover NASA Mars Perseverance: what to expect on landing day



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NASA will use a “celestial crane” to gently lower Perseverance to the surface of Mars.

NASA

When it comes to space events, few things are as exciting as landing a vehicle on another planet. It is stretched. It’s exciting. It’s high stakes. On February 18, NASA’s Perseverance rover will aim to maintain the landing on Mars, ushering in a new era in the exploration of the Red Planet.

While NASA has a lot of experience delivering machines to Mars (we’re looking at you here, Curiosity and Insight), it doesn’t make it easier this time. “Landing on Mars is difficult,” NASA said. “Only about 40% of missions ever sent to Mars – by any space agency – were successful.”

It’s gonna be a mad rush. Here’s what to expect on the day of Perseverance landing.

How to watch

NASA will provide live coverage of the landing. The NASA television broadcast by Mission Control will begin Thursday, February 18 at 11:15 a.m. PT. Landing in Jezero Crater on Mars is scheduled for around 12:30 p.m. PT.

It won’t be like a rocket launch where we can see every detail as we go. We will receive comments and updates from NASA, views from mission control, and hopefully images shortly after landing. It will be a must see event for space fans.

Perseverance resonates

We have been to Mars before. So why all the hype? The red planet is our neighbor in the solar system. It’s rocky like the Earth. It has a long history of water. We can imagine living there maybe one day.

“The level of interest that people have in this planet is simply extraordinary,” Alice Gorman – space archaeologist and associate professor at Flinders University in Australia – told CNET. Gorman highlighted humanity’s search beyond Earth and how Mars is a candidate for hosting microbial life in its ancient past.

There is also something special about a rover, a wheeled mechanical creature with a “head” and “eyes”. “People feel rovers because they’re active and moving,” Gorman said, comparing it to a feeling of almost parental attachment. The outpouring of emotion over the disappearance of NASA’s Opportunity rover proves how connected humans can access a Mars explorer. Perseverance is fast becoming our new Martian darling.

Seven minutes of terror

Arrivals on Mars are always heartbreaking. NASA calls the EDL process for “entry, descent, and landing.”

“Upon landing, the rover plunges into the thin Martian atmosphere, with the heat shield first, at a speed of over 12,000 mph (about 20,000 km / h),” NASA said in an explanatory d ‘landing. There’s a reason NASA describes the landing process as “seven minutes of terror”.

This NASA graphic shows the entire entry, descent, and landing (EDL) sequence.

NASA / JPL-Caltech

Small thrusters will fire to keep the rover on track during the potentially bumpy ride through the atmosphere. The rover’s protective heat shield helps slow it down. At an altitude of about 11 kilometers, a supersonic parachute will deploy and Perseverance will soon separate from its heat shield.

NASA gave a briefing on January 27 with a detailed overview of the entire EDL sequence, including the “sky crane” maneuver, which lowers the rover from the final distance to the surface using a set of cables.

If all goes well, Perseverance will eventually rise to the surface of Mars. “The hardest part is landing smoothly, not crashing, and then deploying the moving parts,” Gorman said. Perseverance is not the only one traveling. He also carries a helicopter named Ingenuity in his belly. Ingenuity will be unleashed later in the mission.


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Live the landing

The mission is equipped with cameras and microphones designed to capture the EDL process, so we can expect to see and hear the excitement of the landing at some point. “It will be the rough sounds of descent and ascent to the surface,” said Gorman. “So it’s a whole new level of sensory engagement.”

It takes time to send data between Mars and Earth. For us back home, we can expect a first photo shortly after landing, but the full visual and audio experience can take a few days at NASA to be shared with the world.

The agency released an arrival trailer in December that shows an animated, time-lapse version of the process. You will get the idea how wild it is to land a rover on another planet.

Gorman is delighted to get footage of the rover’s landing spot in Jezero Crater. This will be our first close look at the landscape of a region that had a history of water. Perseverance hopes to explore this story and seek evidence of life.

While the photos, sounds, helicopters, and global science will be cause for celebration, there’s the big lingering question the mission might answer: Was Mars home to microbial life? Said Gorman, “It would be really great if we have a little more precise idea of ​​whether something has ever lived on Mars.”

Perseverance is our next great hope as we search for signs of life beyond Earth. It all starts with gluing the landing.

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