The National Aeronautics Space Administration’s (NASA) Perseverance rover will be attempting to land on Mars’ Jezero crater later tonight. It will be 19 February 2021 at 2:25 AM IST when the rover lands on the red planet. All eyes will be on the historic landing as it has been touted as the most difficult landing ever attempted on Mars. The engineers managing the mission from the ground at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Southern California have said that the landing will be “seven minutes of terror”.

What

  1. The Perseverance rover lifted off from Kennedy Space Centre on 30 July 2020. It took the spacecraft more than six months to reach Mars’ orbit. This period was chosen to take advantage of the proximity between the two planets which opens every two years. After landing on Mars, the rover will stay there for one-Mars year that is equal to 687 days on Earth.
  2. The difficulty level was the main reason why no such landing was attempted by anyone before. The 45km-wide crater is filled with steep cliffs, sand dunes, and boulder fields. Scientists believe that it was home to an ancient river.
  3. The spacecraft will enter Mars’ atmosphere at nearly 20,000 kmph which will lead to temperatures soaring up to 1,300-degree Celsius. Under extreme temperatures, the aeroshell will keep the rover safe and at room temperature.
  4. Once the parachute is out, after 20 seconds the radar equipped with Terrain-Relative Navigation technology will come into play in finding a safe landing spot. Finally, the retrorockets will fly the rover to the landing site. It will be followed by getting lowered to the ground using cables.
  5. This time around there is an Ingenuity Mars Helicopter onboard too which will collect samples from places where the rover could not reach.
  6. The helicopter is dependent on the Perseverance rover for landing on Mars as it will be attached to its belly. It has been made and tested to fly in harsh temperatures of Mars which has just one percent of Earth’s atmosphere density.
  7. When the mission begins and the rover explores the surface of Jezero crater, it will collect rock samples to bring back to Earth and search for any signs of ancient microbial life on the planet. These samples will also help scientists understand the planet’s geology and past climate.