It takes time to send data between Mars and Earth. For us back home, we can expect a first photo not too long after landing, but the full visual and audio experience may take a few days for NASA to share with the world.
If all goes well, Perseverance will end up standing on the surface of Mars. “The really hard part is to soft land and not crash land, and then to deploy the moving parts,” said Gorman. Perseverance is not alone on the trip. It also carries a helicopter named Ingenuity in its belly. Ingenuity will be unleashed later in the mission.
It’s going to be a wild ride. Here’s what to expect on Perseverance’s landing day.
How to watch
The mission is equipped with cameras and microphones designed to capture the EDL process, so we can expect to both see and hear the excitement of the landing at some point. “It will be the raw sounds of the descent and coming onto the surface,” said Gorman. “So that’s a whole other level of sensory engagement.” We’ve been to Mars before. So why all the hype? The red planet is our solar system neighbor. It’s rocky like Earth. It has a long history of water. We can imagine ourselves perhaps living there some day.
When it comes to space happenings, there are few as tense, exciting and high stakes as landing a vehicle on another planet. This Thursday, Feb. 18, NASA’s Perseverance rover will endeavor to stick the landing on Mars, kicking off a new era in red planet exploration.
While NASA has a lot of experience with delivering machines to Mars (here’s looking at you, Curiosity and InSight), that doesn’t make it any easier this time. “Landing on Mars is hard,” NASA said. “Only about 40% of the missions ever sent to Mars – by any space agency – have been successful.”
NASA Perseverance rover ready to explore the wilds of Mars
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Seven minutes of terror
The agency released an arrival trailer in December that shows an animated, sped-up version of the process. You’ll get the idea of just how wild it is to land a rover on another planet.
NASA gave a briefing on Jan. 27 with a detailed rundown on the entire EDL sequence, including the “sky crane” maneuver, which lowers the rover the final distance to the surface using a set of cables.
There’s also something special about a rover, a wheeled mechanical creature with a “head” and “eyes.” “People feel towards the rovers because they’re active and they move,” said Gorman, likening it an almost parental sense of attachment. The outpouring of emotion over the demise of NASA’s Opportunity rover proves how connected humans can get to a Mars explorer. Perseverance is set to become our new Martian sweetheart.
NASA will provide live coverage of the landing. The NASA TV broadcast from mission control kicks off on Thursday, Feb. 18 at 11:15 a.m. PT. Touch down in the Jezero Crater on Mars is scheduled for around 12:30 p.m. PT.
Small thrusters will fire to keep the rover on track on the potentially bumpy ride through the atmosphere. The rover’s protective heat shield helps to slow it down. At an altitude of around 7 miles (11 kilometers), a supersonic parachute will deploy and Perseverance will soon separate from its heat shield.