Countdown begins for NASA’s Perseverance mission to Mars

Its all systems go for NASA as its highly anticipated Perseverance mission is scheduled to swing into the Red Planet’s orbit at approximately 12:55am GST on November 19, 2021 (November 18 in the United States).

The Agency’s mission will first see the Perseverance rover enter the Martian orbit, descend and then land on the Martian surface.

Hundreds of critical events must execute perfectly and exactly on time for the rover to land safely on Mars on February 19 (November 18 in the United States).

Perseverance is NASA’s fifth Mars rover and, if successful, will be the Agency’s ninth Mars landing.

The upcoming Mars mission will last at least one Mars year (approximately 687 Earth days).

NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Southern California will oversee the strategic Mars mission.

Landing phase

As part of its landing mandate, the Perseverance rover will hurtle through the thin Martian atmosphere at approximately 20,00okmph.

The probe’s powered descent will be facilitated by a parachute, to slow the craft down to about 3kmph.

The crucial descent stage to Mars’ surface will involve what is known as the sky crane manoeuvre, lowering the rover on three cables to land softly on six wheels at Jezero Crater.

Perseverance will be the first spacecraft from Earth to land on the Martian surface since NASA’s Mars Insight lander in 2018 and the first rover since NASA’s Curiosity descended to the planet back in 2012.

Mars mission
NASA’s Perseverance mission insignia. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

 

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

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

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

Perseverance, which launched on July 30, 2020, will search Mars for signs of ancient microbial life, collect carefully selected rock and regolith (broken rock and dust) samples for future return to Earth.

The probe will also study the Martian geology and climate, while also paving the way for human exploration beyond the Moon.

NASA’s Mars mission joins those of the UAE (Hope) and China (Tianwen-1), which successfully reached Mars’ orbit earlier this month.

NASA’s Deep Space Network (DSN) will provide two-way communications with the Perseverance mission, as it does, with the UAE Mars mission (Hope probe).

JPL, a division of the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena, manages the DSN for NASA.

Apart from the DSN complex in Goldstone, California, two other complexes in Spain and Australia complete the DSN network.