The Perseverance rover just became NASA’s fifth rover to safely land on the surface of Mars after surviving the “seven minutes of terror.”
This is the most sophisticated rover the agency has ever sent to the Red Planet. It will gather data and look for signs of ancient life in a crater that once contained a lake about 3.9 billion years ago.
Perseverance’s parachute has just deployed, and it has slowed its speed. It’s very close to the surface.
Perseverance has just started what NASA refers to as the “seven minutes of terror.” This is when the rover essentially has to land itself on Mars with no help from NASA, due to a one-way 11 minute time-delay.
The ground teams tell the spacecraft when to begin EDL (entry, descent and landing) and the spacecraft takes over from there — and mission control begins an agonizing wait.
The spacecraft hits the top of the Martian atmosphere moving at 12,000 miles per hour and has to slow down to zero miles per hour seven minutes later when the rover softly lands on the surface.
Here’s a look at what happens during the final moments:
The cruise stage of Perseverance’s journey has ended, and it has arrived at the Red Planet. This means the spacecraft will need to slam on the brakes to slow down from a speed of around 12,000 miles per hour.
Entry, descent and landing will begin soon.
The Perseverance rover is sending “heartbeat tones” back to Earth to tell NASA’s team it’s healthy. However, it is now operating on its own millions of miles away.
It takes 11 minutes for the rover to send data from Mars back to Earth. In real rover time now, Perseverance is on its own and beginning its entry. However, we won’t receive that data for a few more minutes.
Those voices you hear calling out the progress of the mission belong to NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory’s Swati Mohan and Allen Chen.
Chen is the Mars 2020 entry, descent, and landing lead at JPL and Mohan is a guidance navigation control engineer.
Both have worked tirelessly on the mission, which all leads up to this big moment: landing on Mars.
The cruise stage of Perseverance’s journey is nearing its end, meaning it’s close to arriving at the Red Planet.
Once the rover begins its entry, we will start a phase called the “seven minutes of terror” in which it descends to the surface of Mars.
The Perseverance rover’s journey from Earth to Mars started in July, when the spacecraft carrying the rover and helicopter launched from Cape Canaveral, Florida.
But on the other side of the country, the area around the control room in California was also dealing with an earthquake.
The control center at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California experienced some earthquake activity on July 30 ahead of the launch, but it did not impact the launch.
The Mars 2020 mission launch came after nearly a decade of planning by thousands of engineers, scientists and specialists at NASA centers across the country and their commercial partners.
During the final stages of mission preparation, teams also had to manage the difficulties of the coronavirus pandemic.