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Watch live as Perseverance, NASA’s newest rover, lands on Mars

Perseverance’s 293-million-mile journey to Mars is about to come to an end, and you can watch the landing live right here.

NASA’s newest rover is set to touch down in Jerezo Crater at 12:55 p.m. Pacific. If all goes according to plan, Perseverance will begin its search for signs of ancient Martian life after conducting a series of system checks and making other preparations for its mission.

Perseverance, NASA’s newest rover, completes its 7-minute descent and lands safely on Mars to begin a mission that will last at least one Martian year.

It took 6½ months for Perseverance to travel from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida to the atmosphere of the red planet. It will take about seven minutes to get from the atmosphere to the sandy ground.

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The entry, descent and landing sequence requires hundreds of steps, and they all must go off without a hitch.

An illustration of a rover descending to Mars.
This illustration depicts the sequence of events during the seven minutes it will take for NASA’s Perseverance rover to descend to the Martian surface.
(NASA/JPL-Caltech)

The action begins 10 minutes before Perseverance reaches the the atmosphere of Mars. That’s when the spacecraft will jettison the fuel tanks, solar panels, radios and other equipment it won’t need when it’s on the ground. What will remain is the aeroshell, a capsule-like structure that holds the rover, its helicopter sidekick Ingenuity, and the apparatus that will lower them both to the surface.

With the help of small thrusters, the aeroshell stops spinning and orients itself so that it meets the Martian atmosphere with its heat shield out front. Although the atmosphere is thin — its volume is less than 1% that of Earth’s atmosphere — it’s thick enough to slow the spacecraft dramatically.

Air pockets in the atmosphere can bump the rover off course, but the spacecraft can correct for this by firing small rockets that steer it back to where it needs to be.

With about 2 minutes and 45 seconds remaining, the aeroshell deploys its supersonic parachute. The rover will be about nine miles from its intended landing site when this happens.

About 20 seconds after that, the heat shield will be released and Perseverance will touch Martian air for the first time. The rover’s cameras will turn on and its instruments will start collecting data.

After another minute passes, the spacecraft’s Terrain Relative Navigation system will kick in, comparing the images it captures in real time to preloaded pictures and maps. It takes about five seconds for TRN to select a safe place to land.

If NASA’s Perseverance rover lands safely on Mars, it will become the first space mission in nearly 45 years to directly search for signs of microbial life.

Next, the protective shell and attached parachute will be released. The rover and helicopter will continue their journey in the grip of a rocket-powered descent engine. The rockets will fire at the ground as necessary to slow the rover’s descent and straighten it out so it’s level with the ground.

With less than 20 seconds to go, half the engines on the descent stage will shut off. At that point, the rover will be just 69 feet above the surface, and it will slow down to less than 1.7 miles per hour.

In the final 15 seconds, the descent engine will release its grip on the rover, though they’ll still be attached by a set of cables. In this “skycrane” mode, the 2,260-pound rover will unlock its wheels so they’re in position to touch the ground first.

When contact is made, Perseverance will release the cables so the descent engine can fly a safe distance away. The engine will shut down when it runs out of fuel.

Live coverage of the rover landing will begin at 11:15 a.m. Pacific. You can watch the coverage in English in the box above. A Spanish-language version of the broadcast is also available online beginning at 11:30 a.m. Pacific.


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