Getting to Mars is no easy feat, and roughly a third of the missions launched have failed.
No surprises, then, that there’s a great deal of anxiety tied up with the landing of NASA’s Perseverance rover on the red planet tomorrow.
There are several reasons why this landing won’t be easy. For one thing, the atmosphere on Mars is about 1% as thick as Earth’s, which provides enough friction to burn up a spacecraft.
The landing site that Perseverance is heading for, a crater called Jezero, a former lake from 3,5 billion years ago, also won’t be easy to navigate.
All of this comes together in what the space agency describes as the “seven minutes of terror”.
It takes between seven and eight minutes for a radio signal to travel from Mars to Earth, which means that the complete landing process will take place before we receive any word from it.
It will take roughly seven minutes for the probe to make contact, letting NASA know that the landing was successful, and radio silence means a failed mission.
According to Mashable, the rover, which launched atop of an Atlas 5 rocket from Florida’s Cape Canaveral on July 30, 2020, will be carrying the Ingenuity Mars Helicopter, which will attempt to launch the first-ever flight on Mars.
Should Perseverance successfully touch down, it will set to work searching for signs of past (or present) life by collecting samples from within Jezero.
Once it has filled 43 sample tubes, they will be collected and brought back to Earth for analysis.
Take in an overview of Perseverance’s journey to Mars:
More from the NASA team overseeing the landing and how and where it will happen on the red planet:
If you’re keen to take it all in, you can watch the landing live at 9:15PM our time on Thursday, February 18, here:
Perseverance will be following in the tyre tracks of Sojourner, Spirit, Opportunity, and Curiosity, which captured the sharpest-ever visual of Mars, giving us a unique look at the surface of the planet.
Make sure you have the popcorn ready.
It’s going to be wild.
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