NASA will unveil a video of the amazing probe landing on Mars today, a glimpse into the complex multi-stage process that culminated in the successful landing of a car-sized robot on the Red Planet late last week. It proved to be seven minutes or so, and not only included some serious heat shielding but the parachute, sixteen missiles, and the Sky Lift.
Getting a six-wheel science cruising platform the size of an SUV safely to another planet is proving to be no easy feat. For a start, Mars is currently about 147 million miles from Earth: Not only did that mean a long flight, with persistence taking off in the mid-2020s, but the spacecraft itself had to be its own pilot for the landing.
With delays of more than 11 minutes for a signal to Mars from NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, the probe needed to be programmed to land on its own. This involved first getting rid of the velocity as it entered the Martian atmosphere, then deploying a massive parachute to slow its descent. The casing was released, along with an attached parachute, and then two groups of missiles – each of eight – were used to direct the jetpack with the Perseverance attached close to the surface.
From that jet bag, unscrew the Sky Crane, and gently lower the rover to the floor. NASA has shared a photo of how the process has spread, showing perseverance dangling beneath a jetpack before its six wheels hit Mars’ dirt. Now, though, we’ll watch a video of him.
NASA plans to release it at 2 PM EST (11 AM PDT) today, Monday, February 22. There will also be new images from Mars, as the space agency continues to receive data from its Perseverance sensors as it progressively appears online.
Curiosity, the Mars rover that has already spent several years on the planet, has been responsible for some of the most stunning images of our solar neighbor. However, perseverance promises to deliver more impressive content. It has high-resolution cameras, along with dual microphones so that we can finally hear it on Mars, too.
We’ll also – if everything goes as planned – get a view from the sky. I carried the Perseverance on Ingenuity, a helicopter designed to fulfill the first powered flight to another planet. This will capture photos and videos, although it is not designed to do any specific science while in the air. Instead, NASA intends to use it as a proof of concept for future missions that could include aerial surveys, data relays, and more.