It’s Mars Landing day!
After a journey of nearly 483 million kilometres, NASA’s Mars Perseverance rover will land on the Red Planet on Thursday 18 February, 2021. Here’s what to expect from the historic event.
We’re in the final stretch but so much could still go wrong, however. To reach the martian surface, Perseverance has to survive the harrowing final phase known as “Entry, Descent, and Landing”.
You can participate too, by trying out NASA’s virtual Photo Booth for an immersive mission control experience, or by sending your name to Mars on the next mission. There’s also the Mars Student Challenge and Ask NASA Mars.
The next mission to Mars is scheduled for July 2026. Get your ‘boarding pass’ here.
If Perseverance survives the entry, descent and landing, NASA’s biggest, heaviest, and most sophisticated robotic six-wheeled rover geologist will search the Jezero Crater for signs of ancient life.
Strapped to the rover’s belly for the journey to Mars is a technology demonstration — the Mars Helicopter, Ingenuity, may achieve a “Wright Brothers moment “ by testing the first powered flight on the Red Planet.
NASA’s, Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) will host a live stream with commentary, starting at 14:15 EST or 21:15 South African Standard Time (SAST) on the NASA TV Public Channel and the agency’s website
Touchdown is scheduled for approximately 15:55 EST (or 22:55 SAST). NASA will also be hosting additional landing shows, such as Mission Control Live, an immersive 360-degree view of the control room at JPL.
The rover’s mission is to collect samples which will eventually be returned to Earth for analysis. The stream below will go live at 21:15 South African Time.
The historic event – described by The Telegraph as NASA’s “most treacherous mission” to date – comes with several challenges, such as Mars’ lack of a protective magnetosphere and lower surface gravity.
“Nasa is on tenterhooks as its Perseverance rover prepares to go through ‘seven minutes of terror’ which will see it attempt the most treacherous landing yet on Mars”.
One of the biggest is the red planet’s thin atmosphere of carbon dioxide. If you were to stand on the surface of Mars without a spacesuit, you’d asphyxiate from a lack of oxygen and freeze to death.
If all goes according to plan, the Perseverance Landing Day milestones: