NASA Mars Perseverance rover: What to expect on landing day – CNET


NASA will use a “sky crane” to softly decrease Perseverance to the floor of Mars.


On the subject of space happenings, few issues are as thrilling as touchdown a car on one other planet. It is tense. It is thrilling. It is excessive stakes. On Feb. 18, NASA’s Perseverance rover will intention to stay the touchdown on Mars, kicking off a brand new period in purple planet exploration. 

Whereas NASA has a whole lot of expertise with delivering machines to Mars (here is you, Curiosity and InSight), that does not make it any simpler this time. “Touchdown on Mars is difficult,” NASA said. “Solely about 40% of the missions ever despatched to Mars – by any area company – have been profitable.”

It may be a wild experience. This is what to anticipate on Perseverance’s touchdown day.

How one can watch

NASA will present reside protection of the touchdown. The NASA TV broadcast from mission management kicks off on Thursday, Feb. 18 at 11:15 a.m. PT. Contact down within the Jezero Crater on Mars is scheduled for round 12:30 p.m. PT. 

This would possibly not be like a rocket launch the place we get to see each element because it’s taking place. We are going to get NASA commentary and updates, views from mission management, and hopefully some pictures not too lengthy after touchdown. Will probably be a must-watch occasion for area followers.    

Perseverance resonates

We have been to Mars earlier than. So why all of the hype? The purple planet is our photo voltaic system neighbor. It is rocky like Earth. It has an extended historical past of water. We will think about ourselves maybe dwelling there some day. 

“The extent of curiosity that folks have on this planet is simply extraordinary,” Alice Gorman — area archaeologist and affiliate professor at Flinders College in Australia — advised CNET. Gorman highlighted humanity’s seek for life past Earth and the way Mars is a candidate for having internet hosting microbial life in its historical previous.

There’s additionally one thing particular a couple of rover, a wheeled mechanical creature with a “head” and “eyes.” “Folks really feel in the direction of the rovers as a result of they’re energetic and so they transfer,” mentioned Gorman, likening it an nearly parental sense of attachment. The outpouring of emotion over the demise of NASA’s Opportunity rover proves how related people can get to a Mars explorer. Perseverance is about to turn into our new Martian sweetheart.

Seven minutes of terror

Mars arrivals are at all times harrowing. NASA calls the method EDL for “entry, descent and touchdown.”

“Throughout touchdown, the rover plunges via the skinny Martian ambiance, with the warmth defend first, at a velocity of over 12,000 mph (about 20,000 kph),” said NASA in a landing explainer. There is a cause NASA describes the touchdown course of as “seven minutes of terror.”

This NASA graphic exhibits the whole entry, descent and touchdown (EDL) sequence.


Small thrusters will hearth to maintain the rover on monitor on the possibly bumpy experience via the ambiance. The rover’s protecting warmth defend helps to gradual it down. At an altitude of round 7 miles (11 kilometers), a supersonic parachute will deploy and Perseverance will quickly separate from its warmth defend.

NASA gave a briefing on Jan. 27 with a detailed rundown on the entire EDL sequence, together with the “sky crane” maneuver, which lowers the rover the ultimate distance to the floor utilizing a set of cables.

If all goes effectively, Perseverance will find yourself standing on the floor of Mars. “The actually laborious half is to tender land and never crash land, after which to deploy the transferring elements,” mentioned Gorman. Perseverance just isn’t alone on the journey. It additionally carries a helicopter named Ingenuity in its stomach. Ingenuity will likely be unleashed later within the mission.

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Experiencing the touchdown

The mission is provided with cameras and microphones designed to seize the EDL course of, so we will count on to each see and listen to the thrill of the touchdown sooner or later. “Will probably be the uncooked sounds of the descent and coming onto the floor,” mentioned Gorman. “In order that’s a complete different degree of sensory engagement.”

It takes time to ship knowledge between Mars and Earth. For us again residence, we will count on a primary photograph not too lengthy after touchdown, however the full visible and audio expertise might take a couple of days for NASA to share with the world. 

The company launched an arrival trailer in December that exhibits an animated, sped-up model of the method. You may get the thought of simply how wild it’s to land a rover on one other planet.

Gorman is happy about getting visuals of the rover’s touchdown spot in Jezero Crater. Will probably be our first close-up have a look at the panorama in an space that had a historical past of water. Perseverance hopes to discover that historical past and search for proof of life.

Whereas the images, sounds, helicopter and all-around science will likely be causes to have a good time, there’s the massive lingering query the mission may reply: Was Mars residence to microbial life? Mentioned Gorman, “It could simply be actually nice if we have got a little bit of a more in-depth deal with on whether or not something as soon as lived on Mars.” 

Perseverance is our subsequent nice hope within the seek for indicators of life past Earth. All of it begins with sticking the touchdown.

Observe CNET’s 2021 Space Calendar to remain updated with all the newest area information this yr. You possibly can even add it to your individual Google Calendar.    

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