On Thursday, February 18, NASA will be live streaming as their Perseverance rover, the most complex and capable rover ever sent to another planet, touches down on the Martian surface.
Thanks to the latest in streaming technology, you can follow along live as NASA’s team tracks Perseverance into its descent before tracking goes temporarily offline for what is commonly called the “seven minutes of terror.” During those seven minutes, Perseverence will be entirely self-guided and automated as it penetrates the thin atmosphere and careens toward the surface of the red planet.
First, NASA’s Perseverance will deploy a parachute to slow its descent, before ejecting the chute and switching to landing thrusters that will tame its reentry speed and drop the rover just above the surface at a nice and easy three miles per hour (or so). From there, the thruster-equipped platform will fly off from the rover, so as to prevent stirring up any debris that could damage its sensitive scientific equipment. You can watch the whole process in this video:
At least… That’s how it’s supposed to go. Historically, only about half of the missions to Mars are successful, with the other half failing somewhere along the massive trip from planet to planet, or because of an issue with the landing. That’s what makes the “seven minutes of terror” so terror-inducing: During that time, no one on Earth will know for sure if Perseverance is functioning properly. At the end of those anxious minutes, Perseverance will either regain communications with mission control… or not.
If everything works out, Perseverance is decked out with all sorts of gear meant to look for signs of ancient life, as well as a first-of-its-kind helicopter drone NASA will attempt to fly on Mars.
Here are the pertinent stats on Perseverance courtesy of NASA:
- Mission Name: Mars 2020
- Rover Name: Perseverance
- Main Job: Seek signs of ancient life and collect samples of rock and regolith (broken rock and soil) for possible return to Earth.
- Launch: July 30, 2020
- Landing: Feb. 18, 2021
- Landing Site: Jezero Crater, Mars
- Tech Demo: The Mars Helicopter is a technology demonstration, hitching a ride on the Perseverance rover.
You can follow along live with NASA’s stream on their Jet Propulsion Laboratory YouTube channel, complete with a 360-degree view of mission control, so you can look around to your heart’s content and share in the jubilation (or heartbreak) that follows the landing. Or you can watch it right here in the video below. The stream is set to begin just after 1400 EST.