NASA is on the verge of making a big history as its Perseverance rover will make its landing on the red planet Mars for scientific researches and information gathering about the existence of microbial life on the planet.
Landing on the surface of the planet can be tricky and will definitely not be an easy task even though there have been a number of missions to the planet in the past such as the Curiosity and InSight missions. According to the space agency, “Landing on Mars is hard” and “only about 40% of the missions ever sent to Mars by any space agency have been successful.”
So on this short post, we’ll explore a little bit of what to be expected of the Mars Perseverance mission as well as the time of landing on the red planet.
What time will Perseverance land on Mars?
The space agency will make a live broadcast of the landing which you can watch on YouTube (preview below). However, the NASA TV broadcast from mission control starts today, Thursday, Feb 18th at 11:15 am PT while touchdown in the Jezero Crater on Mars is scheduled for 12:30 pm PT.
The views of a Mars landing or an interplanetary landing for that matter will be quite different from a space rocket launching whereby there are cameras all monitoring the rocket from earth with personnel all around. This time around, NASA basically provide commentary and updates as well as views from the mission control and maybe some images after the landing.
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Here are the times across different timezones:
Thurs., Feb. 18
USA: 11:15 a.m. PT / 2:15 p.m. ET
Brazil: 4:15 p.m. (Rio)
UK: 7:15 p.m.
South Africa: 9:15 pm
Russia: 10:15 pm (Moscow)
United Arab Emirates: 11:15 pm
Fri., Feb. 19
Australia: 6:15am AEDT
Why the hype?
This isn’t the first mission to the red planet and will definitely not be the last. But one thing that makes this mission spectacular is because scientists will also be making much more findings on the planet.
FYI, Mars is a rocky exoplanet like Earth and it has a long history of water and people like Elon Musk think we might colonize the planet pretty soon in an attempt to preserve the human race and make human species interplanetary which sounds pretty cool but we can’t just head to Mars – we need to know about the future second-home of humans hence NASA missions like the Perseverance.
“The level of interest that people have in this planet is just extraordinary,” Alice Gorman — space archaeologist and associate professor at Flinders University in Australia — told reporters. She also highlighted humanity’s search for life outside of Earth and Mars is one of the candidate that could have hosted microbial life in the past.
Seven minutes of terror
As stated much earlier, landing on the red planet isn’t a joke and isn’t easy. The Perseverance mission will use what NASA calls the EDL process (Entry, Descent and Landing) to get the rover on the Mars surface.
“During landing, the rover plunges through the thin Martian atmosphere, with the heat shield first, at a speed of over 12,000 mph (about 20,000 kph),” NASA said in a landing explainer. There’s a reason NASA describes the landing process as “seven minutes of terror.”
The thinner atmosphere of Mars might still be hostile towards the entry of the rover which will be within a small thruster to keep it on track. There will also be the protective heat shield to help slow things down and at an altitude of about 7 miles (11 kilometers), a supersonic parachute will then be launched and Perseverance will be able to separate from its heat shield.
NASA gave a briefing on Jan. 27 with a detailed rundown on the entire EDL sequence, including the “sky crane” maneuver, which lowers the rover the final distance to the surface using a set of cables.
If all goes well, Perseverance will end up standing on the surface of Mars. “The really hard part is to soft land and not crash land, and then to deploy the moving parts,” said Gorman. Perseverance is not alone on the trip. It also carries a helicopter named Ingenuity in its belly. Ingenuity will be unleashed later in the mission.
What to expect during landing
The Perseverance rover is equipped with an array of cameras and microphones which will be used to capture the EDL process (entry, decent and landing) which is an attempt to give both visual and audio experience of the landing process.
“It will be the raw sounds of the descent and coming onto the surface,” Gorman said. “So that’s a whole other level of sensory engagement.”
Also there will be data connection between Mars and Earth all which will take some time but the first picture of the landing shouldn’t take too long to reach Earth while the full visual and audio experience could take a couple of days before NASA would hare it to the world.
The agency released an arrival trailer in December that shows an animated, sped-up version of the process. You’ll get the idea of just how wild it is to land a rover on another planet.
The views of the planet’s surface will be the first close-up look at the landscape in an area which had history of water and this will be the right place to seek evidence of microbial life in the past because the theory of scientists is the fact hat the presence of water on a planet will give life a chance.
While the photos, sounds, helicopter and all-around science will be reasons to celebrate, there’s the big lingering question the mission might answer: Was Mars home to microbial life? Said Gorman, “It would just be really great if we’ve got a bit of a closer handle on whether anything once lived on Mars.”
The Perseverance mission is another search for life beyond the planet Earth and it will definitely come with a lot of hurdle but the findings could change humanity’s view of the life outside Earth forever.
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