Utah Skies: Perseverance Lands On Mars
About every two years Earth and Mars are aligned in their orbits so that a space mission can be sent to Mars at the most opportune time. That alignment took place during July 2020 when NASA launched the large robotic rover called Perseverance to Mars. After a 300 million mile journey, Perseverance landed on Mars on Feb. 18. Another Mars adventure begins on the Red Planet.
Landing a rover on Mars is not easy. Although NASA has successfully landed a number of unmanned landers and rovers on Mars since 1976 only 40% of the missions to Mars have successfully landed. The challenge is the last stage of entry into the Martian atmosphere, the descent, and landing on the Red Planet's surface. The rover will be entering the Martian atmosphere at 12,000 miles an hour. Small thrusters keep the rover on a proper trajectory with its heat shield to help slow it down. Seven miles above the Red Planet's surface a parachute deploys and Perseverance separates from its heat shield.
A sky crane will be deployed to lower the large rover to the surface with a set of cables. The main goal is to get a soft landing on the surface. The last seven minutes of the mission prior to landing will be critical and the most stressful for mission control.
Once on the surface Perseverance carries a small helicopter called Ingenuity, many types of cameras, and microphone to record the landing.
The Perseverance mission will help scientists get a closeup look at Jezero Crater and its past history of water and evidence for ancient life.