Mark your calendars – the agency’s latest rover has only about 8,640,000 seconds to land on the Red Planet, becoming the next in history Mars machine.
Only 100 days and 166 million miles (268 million kilometers) separate NASAthe Mars 2020 Perseverance rover mission and the red planet Jezero crater. The landing will take place on February 18, 2021, at 12:43 pm PST (3:43 pm EST), with confirmation received at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Southern California at around 11 am. 1/2 minutes later.
The six-wheeled Mars car is tasked with wandering around the crater – believed to be the site of a Martian lake billions of years ago – to look for signs of ancient microbial life, collect and store Martian rock and regolith (broken rock and dust), and pave the way for human exploration of the Red Planet.
To prepare the Perseverance rover for its rendezvous with Mars, NASA’s Mars 2020 mission team conducted a wide range of tests to ensure a successful entry, descent, and landing on the Red Planet. From parachute testing in the world’s largest wind tunnel, to practice avoiding hazards in Death Valley, California, to wheel drop tests at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory and more, every system has been put through its paces. to prepare for the big day. Credit: NASA /JPL-Caltech
“While we call the six and a half month voyage from Earth to Mars a ‘cruise’, I assure you there is not much to do in croquet on the deck of the beach,” said JPL Project Manager John McNamee. “Between controlling the spacecraft and planning and simulating our landing and surface operations, the whole team is ready to work on our exploration of the Jezero crater.”
On November 9, the mission team confirmed that the descent phase propulsion subsystem, which will help lower the rover to Mars, is in good condition. Today, November 10, they turn their attention to the rover’s PIXL and SHERLOC instruments. The Lander vision system is expected to go under the microscope on 11 November; and the SuperCam tool, the next day. Along the way, on December 18, the team plans to perform a trajectory correction maneuver, using the eight thrusters of the cruise phase to refine the spacecraft’s path to Mars.
NASA’s Mars 2020 Perseverance is 100 days away from landing. See the full interactive experience at Eyes on the Solar System.
The mission has already held several test scenarios to help evaluate procedures and train Mars 2020 mission controllers for important milestones to come. During some of these multi-day tests, the team faces unexpected challenges thrown by colleagues playing the role of “gremlins”. Even with the challenges introduced during the landing trials on October 29, the team was able to successfully land a simulated Perseverance rover on Mars.
Another important mission milestone will be tested starting next Monday, November 16, when the team will begin a five-day simulation of surface operations, including driving the rover and conducting a sampling. In December, the team expects one or two gremlins to appear during another five days of simulating the rover’s transition from landing to surface operations.
Learn more about the mission
A key focus of the Perseverance mission to Mars is astrobiology, including the search for signs of ancient microbial life. The rover will characterize the planet’s geology and past climate, pave the way for human exploration of the Red Planet, and be the first mission to collect and store Martian rock and regolith (broken rock and dust).
Subsequent missions, currently under consideration by NASA in collaboration with the European Space Agency (ESA), would send spacecraft to Mars to collect these cached samples from the surface and return them to Earth for in-depth analysis.
The Mars 2020 mission is part of a larger program that includes missions to the Moon as a way to prepare for human exploration of the Red Planet. Charged with the return of astronauts to the moon by 2024, NASA will establish a sustained human presence on and around the moon by 2028 through NASA’s Artemis lunar exploration plans.
JPL, which is operated for NASA by Caltech in Pasadena, California, has built and operates the Perseverance rover operations.