NASA Preparing to Land Mars Perseverance: 100 Days and 166 Million Miles to Go

The parachute for the Mars 2020 Perseverance rover mission is tested in a wind tunnel at NASA’s Ames Research Center in California’s Silicon Valley.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Ames   ANIMATION

Mark your calendars: The agency’s latest rover has only about 8,640,000 seconds to go before it touches down on the Red Planet, becoming history’s next Mars car.

A mere 100 days and 166 million miles (268 million kilometers) separate NASA’s Mars 2020 Perseverance rover mission and the Red Planet’s Jezero Crater. Landing will occur on February 18, 2021, at 12:43 p.m. PST (3:43 p.m. EST), with confirmation being received back at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Southern California about 11 1/2 minutes later.

The six-wheeled Mars car is tasked with prowling the crater – believed to be the site of a Martian lake billions of years ago – to search for signs of ancient microbial life, collect and cache Martian rock and regolith (broken rock and dust), and pave the way for human exploration of the Red Planet.

To prepare the Perseverance rover for its date with Mars, NASA’s Mars 2020 mission team conducted a wide array of tests to help ensure a successful entry, descent and landing at the Red Planet. From parachute verification in the world’s largest wind tunnel, to hazard avoidance practice in Death Valley, California, to wheel drop testing at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory and much more, every system was put through its paces to get ready for the big day.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

“While we call the six-and-a-half-month trip from Earth to Mars ‘cruise,’ I assure you there is not much croquet going on at the lido deck,” said Project Manager John McNamee of JPL. “Between checking out the spacecraft, and planning and simulating our landing and surface operations, the entire team is on the clock, working toward our exploration of Jezero Crater.”

On November 9, the mission team confirmed that the propulsion subsystem of the descent stage, which will help lower the rover onto Mars, is in good working order. Today, Nov. 10, they turn their attention to the rover’s PIXL and SHERLOC instruments. The Lander Vision System is scheduled to go under the microscope on November 11; and the SuperCam instrument, the day after that. Down the road, on December 18, the team plans to perform a trajectory correction maneuver, using the cruise stage’s eight thrusters to refine the spacecraft’s path toward Mars.

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