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NASA’s Perseverance Rover to Land on Mars Today: Watch Live

| Planetary Science, Space Exploration

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NASA’s Perseverance rover, with the Ingenuity helicopter attached to its belly, is on target to touch down gently in Jezero Crater on Mars around 3:55 p.m. EST (12:55 p.m. PST, 8:55 p.m. GMT) today, February 18, 2021. Live coverage and landing commentary will start at 2:15 p.m. EST 

The Perseverance rover mission, launched on July 30, 2020, will address high-priority science goals for Mars exploration.

Developed under NASA’s Mars Exploration Program, it will seek signs of past microbial life and characterize the planet’s climate and geology.

It will also collect samples of Martian rocks and dust for a future Mars Sample Return mission to Earth, while paving the way for human exploration of the Red Planet.

Perseverance, the largest, heaviest robotic Mars rover NASA has built, is based on the Curiosity rover configuration.

It is car-sized, about 3 m (10 feet) long not including the robotic arm, 2.7 m (9 feet) wide and 2.1 m (7 feet) tall. But at 1,025 kg (2,260 pounds), it weighs less than a compact car.

Its robotic arm is equipped with a rotating turret, which includes a rock drill, science instruments and a camera.

But while Perseverance’s arm is 2.1 m (7 feet) long, just like Curiosity’s, its turret weighs more — 45 kg (99 pounds) — because it carries larger instruments and a larger drill for coring. The drill will cut intact rock cores, and they’ll be placed in sample tubes via a complex storage system.

 

This illustration shows NASA’s Mars 2020 spacecraft carrying the Perseverance rover as it approaches Mars. Image credit: NASA / JPL-Caltech.

Perseverance also has a six-wheel, rocker-bogie design derived from all of NASA’s Mars rovers to date that helps to maintain a relatively constant weight on each of the rover’s wheels and minimizes tilt.

The wheels are slightly narrower and taller than Curiosity’s but are similarly machined out of a rigid, lightweight aluminum alloy.

Both Curiosity and Perseverance have wheels lined with grousers — raised treads that are specially designed for the Martian desert.

Perseverance also is carrying a technology experiment — the Ingenuity Mars Helicopter — that will attempt the first powered, controlled flight on another planet.

“If there’s one thing we know, it’s that landing on Mars is never easy,” said NASA Associate Administrator for Communications Marc Etkind.

“But as NASA’s fifth Mars rover, Perseverance has an extraordinary engineering pedigree and mission team.”

“We are excited to invite the entire world to share this exciting event with us!”

 

This illustration shows the events that occur in the final minutes of the nearly seven-month journey that NASA’s Perseverance rover takes to Mars. Image credit: NASA / JPL-Caltech.

The entry, descent, and landing team is preparing for the Mars 2020 spacecraft to start blazing through the thin Martian atmosphere at around 3:48 p.m. EST (12:48 p.m. PST, 8:48 p.m. GMT).

During landing, the Perseverance rover will plunge through the atmosphere at about 20,000 kph (12,000 mph). A parachute and powered descent will slow the rover down to about 3 kph (2 mph).

During what is known as the sky crane maneuver, the descent stage will lower the rover on three cables to land softly on six wheels at Jezero Crater.

At the time of landing, Mars will be 204 million km (127 million miles) from Earth. At this distance, the one-way light time — the amount of time for a signal to get from Perseverance to Earth — is 11 minutes, 22 seconds.

 

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