The Mars rover is closing in on the Red Planet with another 2.85 million miles to go. Perseverance launched on July 30, 2020, from the Cape Canaveral Space Force Station in Florida, propelled into space by a ULA Atlas V rocket. As of Tuesday morning, the NASA rover has already completed about 99.01 percent of the journey and has travelled more than 289 million miles from Earth.
Perseverance will attempt to land on Mars this Thursday in a bid to find evidence of alien life – past and present.
Perseverance will then dive into the planet’s paper-thin atmosphere, targetting a landing spot in the planet’s Jezero Crater – a 28-mile wide (45km) basin once believed to have been filled with water.
If there ever was life on Mars, Jezero is the perfect place to look for it.
What time will NASA’s Perseverance land on Mars?
Perseverance will arrive at Mars on Thursday, February 18, and carry out a daring landing sequence dubbed by NASA’s engineers the “seven minutes of terror”.
Because of the distance between our planet and Mars, there is a significant 11-minute delay in any communications.
As a result, Perseverance will dive into the planet’s atmosphere without any outside guidance, relying only on is autonomous systems.
And because the planet’s atmosphere is incredibly thin, it will not offer much resistance and the rover will punch right through without slowing down much.
The odds are also stacked against the Mars rover as only 40 percent of all missions ever sent to Mars have been successful.
NASA said: “Hundreds of things have to go just right during this nail-biting drop.”
But if it does all go according to plan, NASA expects Perseverance to touch down by 8.55pm GMT (3.55pm EST).
Perseverance will enter the Martian atmosphere at about 8.48pm GMT (3.48pm EST), surrounded by a protective shell and heat shield.
Just four minutes later, the heat shield will be ejected and the rover will deploy a large parachute to slow down.
Two minutes later and the protective shell will detach, fully exposing the rover and the Skycrane.
The Skycrane is a powered descent stage designed to slowly and safely lower the rover to the planet’s surface.
NASA said: “In the thin Martian atmosphere, the parachute is only able to slow the vehicle to about 200mph.
“To get to its safe touchdown speed, Perseverance must cut itself free of the parachute and ride the rest of the way down using rockets.”
About 12 seconds before touchdown, at a height of 66ft, the Skycrane will lower the rover to the surface on a set of cables.
At the same time, the Skycrane and rover will be descending at about 1.7 miles per hour.
But as soon as the rover’s six wheels touch the ground, Skycrane will cut its cables and fly off to crash a safe distance away.
NASA said: “Entry, Descent, and Landing – often referred to as ‘EDL’ – is the shortest and most intense phase of the Mars 2020 mission.”