NASA has released an animation showing how its one-ton rover will land on Mars on February 18.
The robot is sent to a crater called Jezero where it will search for evidence of past life. But to do this science, it must first touch gently.
The sequence of maneuvers needed to land on Mars is often referred to as “Seven Minutes of Terror” – and with good reason.
Things must go a lot in an eerily short period of time or the next mission will dig a new, very large and very expensive hole in the Red Planet.
What’s more, everything is independent.
With a day’s distance of 209 million kilometers (130 million miles) between Earth and Mars, every moment and every movement you see in the animation must be controlled by the computers on board.
It begins more than 100 kilometers above the surface of Mars as the persistent rover will encounter the first tufts of the atmosphere.
At this point, the vehicle, in its protective capsule, is moving at 20,000 km / h (12,000 mph).
In just over 400 seconds, the landing system should reduce this velocity to just under 1 m / s at the surface.
Most of the work is performed by a heat shield.
As the capsule sinks deeper into the Martian air, it heats up to over 1,000 degrees Celsius – but at the same time, clouds significantly slow down the fall.
By the time the supersonic parachute departs from the back cover of the capsule, the speed has already been reduced to 1,200 km / h.
Perseverance you’ll ride the 21.5-meter parachute for just over a minute, increasing your entry speed.
However, the most complex stages are yet to come.
At an altitude of 2 km, at 100 m / s – the Tenacity wagon and “Sky Crane” detach from the back cover and fall away.
Eight missiles then ignite on the cradle, bringing the rover to hover directly above the surface. Nylon ropes are used to lower the multi-billion dollar wheeled car to the ground.
but that is not all.
When perseverance senses contact, it must cut the cables immediately or else they will be dragged behind the crane as the cradle flies away to dispose of itself at a safe distance.
The sequence looks very similar to what was used to put NASA’s last spacecraft, Curiosity, on the surface of Mars eight years ago. However, the navigation tools have been improved to place tenacity in a more precisely defined landing area.
The landing is expected in the late afternoon, local time, on Mars – before 21:00 GMT on Earth.
It should be noted that on the day of the landing, the time for a radio signal to reach Earth from Mars will be approximately 700 seconds.
This means that when NASA receives a message of persistence stating that it has clashed in the upper part of the atmosphere, the mission will already be dead or alive on the planet’s surface for several minutes.
The robot will record its landing on the camera and microphones. The media files will be sent to Earth after landing – assuming perseverance remains.
Read our guides to perseverance (also known as the March 2020 mission) – where to go and what to do.