Hot on the heels of China’s Tianwen-1 and the UAE’s Hope spacecraft, Perseverance – the successor to NASA’s still-active Mars Curiosity rover – is about to arrive at its destination.
Having launched on July 20th, 2020, the rover – which is carrying an array of sophisticated scientific instrumentation and even a drone that can fly around in the Martian skies – will reach Mars tomorrow.
Like its predecessor, it will undertake what is often referred to as ‘seven minutes of terror’ – a rapid, make-or-break descent through the Martian atmosphere beginning 100km above the planet.
At this point, it will have less than 400 seconds to reduce its speed from 12,000mph to just 1m/s – a feat achieved by first using a supersonic parachute, then NASA’s ‘Skycrane’ system that will use 8 rockets to slow the rover down as it nears the ground.
Once it gets close enough, the rover will be lowered onto the surface using nylon cords. These will then detach and the Skyscrane will fly away to avoid landing on and damaging the vehicle.
While all this is going on, the engineers and scientists at NASA will be waiting with bated breath for the signal to come back indicating that the landing has been a success.
If the rover survives, it will begin its primary mission to seek out signs of primitive alien life on Mars.
The landing itself should take place at 3:55 p.m. EST / 8:55 p.m. GMT.
NASA will also be hosting a live-streamed event in the run-up to the landing.
Update: Perseverance has successfully made it onto the surface of Mars!