23:27 | 18/02/2021 Print
|Where and How to Watch Mars Landing - Live on - Today|
It's landing day on Mars! NASA's Perseverance rover will touch down on the Red Planet today.
The rover spent the last seven months flying the roughly 125-million-mile (202 million kilometers) distance to Mars on a quest to find signs of ancient life. Later today (Feb. 18), the mission will begin a daring "seven minutes of terror"-type descent, and if all goes well, its wheel touchdown will signal the beginning of the most powerful rover yet to roam the Martian surface.
Perseverance will broadcast information back in high-definition 4K, set aside promising rock samples for a sample-return mission and launch the first interplanetary helicopter — all while photographing, laser-targeting and investigating targets in the ancient delta of Jezero Crater.
NASA TV’s live coverage of the Mars 2020 mission’s arrival at the Red Planet begins at 2:15 p.m. EST (1915 GMT).After seven months of relatively quiet space travel, NASA's Mars mission is about to enter seven perilous minutes for its landing.
About half of all of mankind's missions to Mars have failed, including the UK's only attempt to visit the planet in 2003, so how has NASA prepared its Perseverance rover for Thursday?
You can watch the Mars landing Live here, beginning at 2:15 p.m. EST (1915 GMT). The landing is expected at 3:55 p.m. EST (2055 GMT).
According to Skynews, Perseverance's entry, descent and landing on Mars - decelerating from nearly 20,000kmph (12,500mph) to being stationary on the planet's surface - will take just seven minutes.
As it takes 10 minutes for radio signals from Mars to reach Earth, it simply wouldn't be possible for anyone here to remotely pilot the spacecraft, so that process is completely autonomous and controlled by systems on the spacecraft itself.
Landing on Mars is hard enough, but getting the rover to the precise locations that are scientifically rich enough for the teams back on Earth to study is even harder.
NASA explains: "Previous rovers have landed in the general vicinity of areas targeted for study, but precious weeks and months can be used up just traveling to the location of interest.
"The Range Trigger technology reduces the size of the landing ellipse (an oval-shaped area around the landing target) by more than 50 percent, helping put the rover on the ground closer to its prime target than previously possible.
The value of having Mars orbiters already in space means the Perseverance mission team has a relatively up-to-date map of the landing site.
This map is stored in Perseverance's computer "brain" which has been designed to support the Terrain-Relative Navigation system, which will - during the parachute part of its descent, take pictures of the fast-approaching surface.
Perseverance is also equipped with a miniature helicopter named Ingenuity, which weighs just 4lb (1.8kg) and will be the first rotorcraft to fly on another planet, although that test mission isn't due until a while after the landing.
The little chopper underwent a series of drills simulating the mission in a testing facility in California, including a high-vibration environment to mimic how it will hold up under the launch and landing conditions, and extreme temperature swings such as those experienced on Mars.
The autonomous test helicopter will have an on-board camera and will be powered by a solar panel, but will not contain any scientific instruments.
NASA aims to develop the drone as a prototype to see if it could be worth attaching scientific sensors to similar devices in future.
|According to Space, Landing on Mars is the first planetary challenge the Perseverance rover, or "Percy" for short, will face as it whips into the atmosphere. Most Martian landing sites of past missions were wider plains, but Jezero Crater has more interesting terrain — craters, rock fields, sand dunes, a wealth of places to explore. |
"All those things also represent landing hazards for the spacecraft," warned Matt Wallace, Perseverance deputy project manager at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in Pasadena, California. "So we do have a new hazard avoidance capability we call terrain-relative navigation, which we'll employ for the first time."
In the last minutes before landing, Perseverance will use artificial intelligence to scan for the safest landing site below — and then it will make final adjustments to touch down softly on the surface. The computer-directed landing is a necessity because the light speed between Earth and Mars is too great for somebody to hand-steer the rover remotely, all the way down.
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