If it lands, the rover – and a helicopter named Ingenuity that can undertake the primary ever flight on one other planet – will get to work exploring Mars looking for clues about its historical previous. That can embrace making an attempt to know whether or not the planet was ever liveable, and scouring for clues of previous life on its floor.
But when Perseverance’s touchdown fails, it’ll be a part of plenty of missions which were unable to efficiently contact down on the Martian floor, foiled by its lack of environment and inhospitable circumstances.
All of that shall be determined throughout a deadly entry, descent and touchdown course of that can see it hurtle by means of the environment, decelerate to a protected velocity, after which use a highly-advanced “Terrain Relative Navigation” system that can enable it to regulate the place it lands to make sure it might safely drop down onto the floor.
That’s scheduled to occur round three.55pm jap time, or eight.55pm within the UK, although mission controllers shall be giving detailed and dwell updates earlier than and after Perseverance arrives at its new residence.
The spacecraft is flying in the direction of the bottom, as could be seen on this simulation from Nasa.
Andrew Griffin18 February 2021 20:53
Perseverance turns around in the atmosphere
Perseverance is decelerating in the friction of the atmosphere, undergoing about 10 Gs. It’s also doing manuevres in the air to ensure that it lands at the right place.
The signal is cutting out because of the intense heat and plasma that is surrounding it as it flies through the atmosphere.
Andrew Griffin18 February 2021 20:51
Spacecraft enters into the atmosphere
The seven minutes of terror have begun.
Perseverance has crossed into the atmosphere, and is now flying down towards Mars. The seven most dangerous minutes of its mission have now begun.
(The “atmospheric entry” is a somewhat arbitrary part of the sky, but it does denote the point at which everything gets more dangerous.)
Andrew Griffin18 February 2021 20:49
Six minutes from entry in the atmosphere and everything is going very fast
The vehicle is now going to be like a “bullet”, Nasa notes – everything goes very quickly from here, as the spacecraft hurtles towards Mars.
In about six minutes, it will enter the atmosphere – the beginning of those “seven minutes of terror”. The spacecraft will go very fast through the atmosphere, heating up and undergoing the first of its big challenges as its heat shield protects it from those blazing temperatures.
The spacecraft will also go quiet during this time, and even the “heartbeat tones” will switch off at points, because they won’t be able to make it through the hot plasma.
(Again, it’s worth remembering that we’re on a delay of over 11 minutes – that’s caused by the time it takes for the messages to make it through space.)
Here’s a Nasa illustration that shows how that process of hurtling into the atmosphere and decelerating should look:
Andrew Griffin18 February 2021 20:44
Separation confirmed by “blip”
Those “tones” that are coming back from the spacecraft just cut out for a moment, which happened because the cruise stage moved between the vehicle and Earth. So the two have presumably separated safely.
The vehicle is now warming up the entry thrusters that will stop it spinning and push it towards Mars ready for its perilous journey.
Andrew Griffin18 February 2021 20:41
Spacecraft to drop “cruise stage”
The Perseverance rover has been carried over its almost 300-million-mile journeyby the cruise stage, that is the spacecraft that has taken it through space, ensuring that it safely travels through space and is pointing the right way.
But they have now split apart, ready for the entry into the atmosphere and the descent down before landing.
The vehicle is now on its own, turning itself towards Mars and ready to drop into the atmosphere.
Andrew Griffin18 February 2021 20:40
Nasa to soon lose “1s and 0s”
The transmitter that has been sending messages back to Earth is about to get switched off, meaning that the complex digital information it has been sending back will stop coming.
Instead, Nasa will be relying on tones, which it likens to a “flashlight” – still a signal coming back from the rover, but just a simple one telling us that it’s still around, rather than the more complex digital one that gives engineers more rich information.
Andrew Griffin18 February 2021 20:32
Watch live on Independent TV
Andrew Griffin18 February 2021 20:26
Team gives speeches before arrival on Mars
With less than an hour to go, mission controllers are speaking to each other before the EDL – entry, descent and landing – team begin their work properly.
They note that it is a very unusual landing, and that it’s not even been clear that everyone has been in the same room at the same time during the lead-up to the launch. Some staff are still working from home over the internet.
The EDL team also thank the cruise team for all the work they’ve done guiding the spacecraft to Mars over the months it has taken. “Thanks for literally and figuratively putting us in the place to succeed.”
Andrew Griffin18 February 2021 20:19
Mission control host to fitting dog
Andrew Griffin18 February 2021 20:01