The Perseverance rover of the National Aeronautics Space Administration (NASA) will attempt to land on Mars’ Jezero crater later tonight. When the rover lands on the red planet, it will be February 19 at 2:25 AM IST. As it has been described as the most challenging landing ever attempted on Mars, all eyes will be on the historic landing.
At NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Southern California, the engineers overseeing the mission from the ground jokingly said that the landing would be “seven minutes of terror.” Here are five things you should know about the mission before all of the focus moves to the landing case.
When did the Rover launch and for how much time it will stay on mars?
On July 30, 2020, the Perseverance rover took off from the Kennedy Space Centre. The spacecraft took more than six months to hit the orbit of Mars. This time, which opens every two years, was chosen to take advantage of the proximity between the two planets. The rover will remain there for one Mars year, which is equivalent to 687 days on Earth, after landing on Mars.
What makes this landing difficult?
The Jezero crater’s rugged terrain makes this landing particularly difficult. The difficulty level was the primary explanation why nobody had attempted such a landing before. Steep cliffs, sand dunes, and boulder fields fill the 45km-wide crater. Scientists claim that an ancient river was home to it.
The most tricky part of this mission is the landing. At almost 20,000 kmph, the spacecraft will enter the atmosphere of Mars, which will lead to temperatures rising to 1,300 degrees Celsius. The aeroshell can preserve the rover safely and at room temperature under extreme temperatures.
After 20 seconds, once the parachute is down, the radar fitted with Terrain-Relative Navigation technology will come into action to locate a secure landing point. The retrorockets will finally fly the rover to the site of the landing. It will be accompanied by the use of cables being lowered to the ground.
You can view the landing event live on NASA’s YouTube channel. It will take 11 minutes and 22 seconds for signals to travel from Mars to Earth containing news of the mission’s success.
Watch the live stream here:
What is the role of Rover on the planet?
The first aircraft sent to any planet in the history of space travel, which is the attempt of the US space agency at a powered, controlled flight, is “A small but mighty robot”, as per NASA. For landing on Mars, the helicopter is dependent on the Perseverance rover as it will be attached to its belly. It has been planned and tested to fly in Mars’ extreme temperatures that have just one percent of the atmospheric density of the Earth.
When the rover lands successfully, the real work on the ground for the Perseverance team will begin. A detailed inspection will take place and it will be fitted with new flight software to prepare it for the journey ahead, which will take more than a month. It will collect rock samples to carry back to Earth and look for any evidence of ancient microbial life on the planet when the mission starts and the rover explores the surface of the Jezero crater. These samples will also assist scientists to understand the geology and past climate of the mars.