Perseverance Rover Arrives at Mars Tomorrow

The Mars 2020 Perseverance rover arrives at the Red Planet on Feb. 18, 2021.

It is about 1 million miles (1.6 million kilometers) from Mars. NASA’s Mars 2020 Perseverance mission is days away from attempting to land the agency’s fifth rover on the Red Planet. Engineers at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Southern California, where the mission is managed, have confirmed that the spacecraft is healthy and on target to touch down in Jezero Crater at around 3:55 p.m. EST (12:55 p.m. PST) on Feb. 18, 2021.

Above – The aeroshell containing NASA’s Perseverance rover guides itself towards the Martian surface as it descends through the atmosphere in this illustration. Hundreds of critical events must execute perfectly and exactly on time for the rover to land on Mars safely on Feb. 18, 2021.
Credits: NASA/JPL-Caltech

– Cruise stage separation: The part of the spacecraft that has been flying Perseverance – with NASA’s Ingenuity Mars Helicopter attached to its belly – through space for the last six-and-a-half months will separate from the entry capsule at about 3:38 p.m. EST (12:38 p.m. PST).

– Atmospheric entry: The spacecraft is expected to hit the top of the Martian atmosphere traveling at about 12,100 mph (19,500 kph) at 3:48 p.m. EST (12:48 p.m. PST).

– Peak heating: Friction from the atmosphere will heat up the bottom of the spacecraft to temperatures as high as about 2,370 degrees Fahrenheit (about 1,300 degrees Celsius) at 3:49 p.m. EST (12:49 p.m. PST).

– Parachute deployment: The spacecraft will deploy its parachute at supersonic speed at around 3:52 p.m. EST (12:52 p.m. PST). The exact deployment time is based on the new Range Trigger technology, which improves the precision of the spacecraft’s ability to hit a landing target.

– Heat shield separation: The protective bottom of the entry capsule will detach about 20 seconds after the parachute deployment. This allows the rover to use a radar to determine how far it is from the ground and employ its Terrain-Relative Navigation technology to find a safe landing site.

– Back shell separation: The back half of the entry capsule that is fastened to the parachute will separate from the rover and its “jetpack” (known as the descent stage) at 3:54 p.m. EST (12:54 p.m. PST). The jetpack will use retrorockets to slow down and fly to the landing site.

– Touchdown: The spacecraft’s descent stage, using the sky crane maneuver, will lower the rover down to the surface on nylon tethers. The rover is expected to touch down on the surface of Mars at human walking speed (about 1.7 mph, or 2.7 kph) at around 3:55 p.m. EST (12:55 p.m. PST).

Written By Brian Wang,

7 thoughts on “Perseverance Rover Arrives at Mars Tomorrow”

  1. With the successful landing confirmed with first black and white surface image, the above is even more poignant…

  2. Perseverance has a plutonium 238 radioisotope power generator, same as Curiosity did. It stops the thing from freezing up at night, like Texas is doing at the mo. About four kilos of plutonium 238 will put out over 2 kilowatts of heat, half life 88 years. Only a tiny fraction of the energy from fissioning that much plutonium, but far more dependable than any solar panel.

  3. I wouldn't be surprised if having a radioisotope generator on a spaceship would result in a huge increase in the paperwork/tests/safety and general expense. And I wouldn't be too surprised if this applied to any radioisotope, even the size and danger level of a $10 smoke detector.

    Not needed anyway, you can stick a solar panel on your sabatier reactor. At least for the first one, having it take longer because it only works during the day would be a trivial disadvantage.

    Also, where does it get enough water?

  4. So, sky winch again?

    You'd think they'd put a radioisotope generator powered sabatier reactor on one of those, and try having it refuel in place.

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