Photo by: NASA/JPL-Caltech

NASA/JPL-Caltech

Countdown to the Mars Rover Landing

The Mars 2020 Perseverance Rover and Mars Helicopter, Ingenuity, are closer to Mars than ever before as touch down at the Jezero crater is scheduled for February 18, 2021. Let’s take a look back at its launch and learn how it will land on the Red Planet.

January 14, 2021

(Updated: February 16, 2021)

Perseverance with Ingenuity strapped to its belly launched on July 30, 2020, from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Florida. Its mission, upon landing on February 18, 2021, at 3:55P EST, is to seek signs of ancient life and collect samples from the Red Planet for examination on Earth.

You can watch NASA’s Perseverance Rover land on Mars LIVE on Discovery’s TikTok on Thursday, Feb 18 starting at 3:15P ET / 12:15P PT. Featuring former NASA Engineer turned YouTube phenom, Mark Rober, stream the historic event as it happens, and experience the first sounds ever heard from microphones on Mars.

Following Perseverance's touch down on Mars, the rover will call a 28-mile-wide crater, home, until its research of collecting rock and soil samples is complete. At one point in time, the Jezero crater contained a lake. Could this mean there was once life on Mars?

More On Mars Exploration

Space's Deepest Secrets | Mars Perseverance 02:58

NASA's Perseverance is a 6-wheeled robotic vehicle that will seek out life on Mars. Learn more about Perseverance’s mission and don't miss Space's Deepest Secrets on February 18 at 10P ET on Science Channel.

Red Rover, Red Rover, Send Perseverance Right Over

A few years ago, after the successful deployment of the Curiosity rover on Mars, the folks at NASA envisioned a bold new plan to send another mission to the red planet. The mission was scheduled to depart in the then-futuristic year of 2020.

Touching down on Mars is not easy. NASA has mentioned that only about 40 percent of missions sent to the Red Planet have been a success. Perseverance will be the fifth rover to attempt landing on the dusty surface.

This illustration shows the events that occur in the final minutes of the nearly seven-month journey that NASA’s Perseverance rover takes to Mars.

Photo by: NASA/JPL-Caltech

NASA/JPL-Caltech

This illustration shows the events that occur in the final minutes of the nearly seven-month journey that NASA’s Perseverance rover takes to Mars.

The intense stages of entry, descent, and landing, known as EDL, is a multistep process and one that Perseverance must complete on its own. Traveling nearly 12,500 miles per hour, Perseverance will descend on the Red Planet once it has reached the top of the Martian atmosphere. EDL will be complete within seven minutes.

The spacecraft housing Perseverance sheds its cruise stage, which houses solar panels, radios, and fuel tanks used during its flight to Mars about ten minutes before entering the atmosphere. During a guided entry through the atmosphere, small thrusters are fired up to keep Perseverance on course. The heat shield slows down the spacecraft in which the supersonic parachute then deploys. Once the parachute deploys, the heat shield separates away from Perseverance. Key cameras and instruments equipped with radar and a navigation system within the rover is used to zero-in on its powered descent. Perseverance cuts the parachute away and guides itself to the dusty surface using rockets.

As the rover slows to its final descent speed, it initiates the “skycrane” maneuver. The rover uses its mobility system to lock its legs and wheels into a landing position. As soon as Perseverance’s wheels touch the ground, it quickly cuts away the cables it no longer needs for its arrival on Mars. The rover will have safely touched down on the Red Planet.

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