Seven months after its launch, the NASA rover expects to make landfall on Mars on Thursday.
The more than 2 billion euro mission to the Red Planet launched in July 2020 and the rover should land in Jezero Crater at 3:55 pm EST (21:55 CET).
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Controllers at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, will have to wait 11½ minutes to receive a signal confirming a successful landing. This signal will be transmitted to Earth by one of the spacecraft of the European Space Agency.
NASA hopes its Perseverance vehicle, Percy for short, will discover signs of ancient life and collect samples of rock and regolith (broken rock and soil) for a possible return to Earth. You will also study the climate of the planet.
The six-wheeler’s landing would mark the third visit to Mars in just over a week. Two spacecraft from the United Arab Emirates and China entered orbit around the planet on successive days last week.
All three missions took off in July to take advantage of the close alignment of Earth and Mars, traveling some 300 million miles in nearly seven months.
The 2,300-pound Perseverance is NASA’s most advanced rover to date. It is equipped with 19 cameras, an instrument that can provide remote imaging, chemical composition and mineralogy analysis, and five samples of space suit materials to test whether they can withstand radiation from the planet. This will help space agencies prepare for a possible future human mission to Mars.
A 1.8 kg helicopter named Ingenuity also boarded Perseverance. It will be the first aircraft to fly in a controlled way over another planet and its key objective is to demonstrate motorized flight in the atmosphere of Mars, which is only 1% the thickness of the Earth and where gravity is less.
The decline in perseverance has been described by NASA as “seven minutes of terror”, in which flight controllers can only watch helplessly. The pre-programmed spacecraft was designed to hit the thin Martian atmosphere at 19,500 kph (12,100 mph), then use a parachute to slow down and a rocket-guided platform known as an overhead crane to lower the rover the rest of the way to the surface. .
If successful, it would become the ninth spacecraft to successfully land on Mars, each from the US, beginning in the 1970s.
Mars has proven to be a treacherous place: In less than three months in 1999, an American spacecraft was destroyed while entering orbit because engineers had mixed English and metric units, and a U.S. lander crashed on Mars after its engines will shut down prematurely.
The only way to confirm, or rule out, signs of past lives is to analyze the samples in the best laboratories in the world. Instruments small enough to be sent to Mars would not have the necessary precision.
“The Mars sample return project is probably the most challenging thing we’ve ever attempted within NASA,” said planetary science director Lori Glaze, “and we don’t do any of these things alone.”
NASA is partnering with the European Space Agency to bring the rocks home.
ESA will provide a relay vehicle to collect the Perseverance rock samples and carefully store them in a Mars Ascent Vehicle that will put the sample container into orbit around Mars, where it will be picked up by ESA’s Earth Return Orbiter for return. to our shores.
George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism