Photo: NASA/JPL-Caltech

NASA’s Latest Mars Rover Will Attempt the Riskiest Landing on the Red Planet Yet

News Astronomy
by Eben Diskin Feb 17, 2021

NASA’s fifth and newest Mars rover is getting ready to land, in one of the most precarious and challenging landings on the Red Planet to date. The Mars 2020 Perseverance mission is set to touch down in the Jezero Crater on Mars at 3:55 PM ET on February 18, 2021. The crater is a basin where an ancient river is believed to have flowed, and may still show signs of ancient life. The terrain, however, with steep cliffs, sand dunes, and boulder fields, makes landing the rover a tall challenge.

According to Jennifer Trosper, deputy project manager for the mission at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Southern California, “The Perseverance team is putting the final touches on the complex choreography required to land in Jezero Crater. No Mars landing is guaranteed, but we have been preparing a decade to put this rover’s wheels down on the surface of Mars and get to work.”

The entry is so risky some NASA engineers call it the “seven minutes of terror.” Rather than simply following tweets to track the rover’s progress, you’ll be able to watch the event live on NASA TV, with coverage starting at 2:15 PM ET on February 18.

There are several key stages to look out for, which NASA details online, but the main goal is the eventual touchdown. The rover will touch down on the surface of Mars at human walking speed. Since atmospheric conditions on Mars are difficult to predict, there’s plenty that can go wrong, so the event should prove dramatic.

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