PASADENA (CBSLA) – After a nearly seven-month journey across nearly 300 million miles, NASA’s rover known as Perseverance will land on Mars Thursday afternoon.
The Perseverance all-terrain vehicle, built at the Pasadena Jet Propulsion Laboratory, was launched on the 30th. Last July, sent to the Red Planet from Cape Canaveral, Florida.
Landing is scheduled for 12:55. Pacific time, according to JPL.
The final leg of the journey, when Perseverance goes down alone, is the riskiest part of the mission. NASA engineers call it the seven minutes of terror.
So much happens in those seven minutes, from software to working hardware, that it’s very trying, said Gregory Villar, systems engineer at NASA JPL on Wednesday. We’ll all be glued to our seats, waiting for the best.
The Perseverance team is putting the finishing touches on the complex choreography needed to land in the Gezero crater, Jennifer Trosper, deputy project leader for the JPL mission, said this week. A landing on Mars is assured, but we are preparing for ten years to lower the wheels of this rover onto the Martian surface and begin work.
The rover’s mission is to search for signs of microbial life in the past and collect rock and soil samples that will eventually be returned to Earth.
One of the key steps in Perseverance is to collect samples that can be brought back to Earth in the future and analyzed by all the laboratories we have on Earth, which should really give us a definitive answer to this question, said Kenneth Farley, a Mars 2020 project scientist at NASA’s CalTech in Pasadena.
The rover is also equipped with a mini-helicopter, the first ever to be flown on another planet. The Ingenuity helicopter will allow for broader exploration of the planet’s surface.
Last year, Katie Stack Morgan, JPL’s assistant project scientist, said the rover’s landing site, Jezero Crater, is one of the best-preserved deltas on the Martian surface. She said the location would give the rover access to some of the oldest rocks in the solar system.
Perseverance’s main scientific mission is astrobiology, the search for ancient signs of life. This mission is an extension of previous exploration missions that have found evidence that there was once running water on the planet. Scientists believe that this water flowed into the ancient river and flowed into the lake – which is now the Jezero crater.
The historical reconstruction of soil and rock samples from Mars is carried out in cooperation with the European Space Agency. The Perseverance rover will collect drills and samples, then store them on the planet’s surface. Under current plans, a fetch rover will be launched in 2026 that collects samples, puts them in a rocket launched from the surface of Mars, meets an orbiter that takes the samples and brings them back to Earth.
Studying these samples will help answer big questions about the landscape, she said, such as how Mars’ surface and climate have changed over time, how the rocky planets formed and changed and, of course, whether there was ever life on Mars.
(© Copyright 2021 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All rights reserved. City News Service contributed to this report).
frequently asked questions
What will the NASA rover collect when it goes to Mars?
The rover will characterize the planet’s past geology and climate and will be the first mission to collect and temporarily store rocks and regolith from Mars, paving the way for human exploration of the Red Planet.
On what day will Perseverance land on Mars?
NASA’s Perseverance Mars rover is scheduled to land on the Red Planet at 3:55 p.m. today (Feb. 18). EAST (2055 GMT) – or at least that’s when NASA will know if it landed.
What will Perseverance look for on Mars?
During her main mission, the Perseverance will read the geological history of Jesero and look for clues about the strange inhabitants of the past. It will also collect and hide rock samples that a future rover will collect over the next decade and bring back to Earth.
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