NASA’s Perseverance rover: Experts discuss Mars landing
The Mars rover is nearing the end of its six-and-a-half month voyage through space and faces the most challenging hurdle yet: the landing. NASA’s Perseverance will plunge into the Red Planet’s paper-thin atmosphere at breakneck speeds, targetting a 28-mile basin known as Jezero Crater. Scientists are certain Perseverance is equipped with the right tools to determine whether life was ever present in the crater.
Mars Landing: What you need to know about the NASA mission
- Perseverance is the fifth NASA rover launched to Mars
- The rover will land in Jezero Crater, an ancient lakebed
- Perseverance will collect rock sample for return to Earth by 2031
- NASA expects to confirm the rover’s touchdown by 8.55pm GMT (3.55pm EST)
- You can watch the landing live on Express.co.uk and NASA TV
Perseverance is expected to touch down on Mars after a nail-biting seven-minute landing sequence dubbed by NASA the “seven minutes of terror“.
Because there is an 11-minute delay in communications between Earth and Mars, the rover will attempt to land without external guidance.
The Mars landing has touted as the toughest but most ambitious mission to Mars yet.
Perseverance is preceded by the Curiosity rover, which landed on Mars in August 2012 and is still going strong.
Wherever you are in the world, you can watch the Mars landing live online here.
And follow Express.co.uk below to see all of the latest news and updates from Mars.
Perseverance will touch down on Mars
7.45pm update: Contdown to Mars
NASA is building the excitement as Perseverance readies to touch down.
The Perseverance Twitter account said: “Final readiness check for Entry, Descent, and Landing:
Mission team, Check
Communications stations, Check
A little over an hour to go. Let’s do this.
NASA’s Perseverance gets ready
7.30pm update: Perseverance now cruising on its own
Perseverance is now cruising on its own after ground control gave the orders.
Due to an 11 minute delay of signals from Mars to Earth, the machine will have to go solo as it enters the Martian atmosphere.
A stream of engineers said ‘go’ as ground control let it loose and prepared it for its Entry, Descent, and Landing (EDL) stage.
7.20pm update: Mars mission update
Perseverance is edging closer to Mars, and ground control is getting excited
Swati Mohan, NASA engineer, said on NASA TV: Perseverance is still in space right now.
“It is 9,000 miles from Mars now.
“So far, she is healthy and on course.”
7pm update: The live stream is due to begin
NASA is due to begin its live stream of the Perseverance landing.
The space agency will be offering commentary and live images from the landing, as it happens.
You can watch the Perseverance landing here.
Perseverance will burst through the Martian atmosphere
6.30pm update: The countdown is on
NASA has begun teasing the prospect of discovering alien life.
The NASA Mars Twitter account has spoken of flowing waters on the Red Planet which may have once homed life.
The Tweet said: “A long time ago, Mars was a world flowing with rivers and streams.
“We know this thanks to decades of work by robotic explorers and their teams on Earth.
“What we don’t know: did life ever thrive on Mars?”
Inside the Jezero Crater
6pm update: NASA outlines the goal of Perseverance
NASA said: “NASA’s Mars 2020 Perseverance rover will be the agency’s ninth mission to land on the Red Planet.
“Along with characterizing the planet’s geology and climate, and paving the way for human exploration beyond the Moon, the rover is focused on astrobiology, or the study of life throughout the universe.
“Perseverance is tasked with searching for telltale signs that microbial life may have lived on Mars billions of years ago.”
5.30pm update: ESA wishes NASA luck
The European Space Agency (ESA) has wished NASA luck in its bid to land a rover on Mars today.
The ESA tweeted:@NASAPersevere is now racing towards its dive into the Martian atmosphere. Landing expected at 20:55 GMT/21:55 CET.
“Good luck NASA”.
The ESA has played a part in the mission to Mars, with its Mars Express orbiter giving valuable data to the US space agency.
The Jezero Crater
5pm update: NASA should be prepared for ‘terrifying’ surprises
NASA should be prepared for terrifying surprises, an astronomer has warned as the machine zeros in on the planet.
Dr Daniel Brown, an astronomy expert at Nottingham Trent University, said: “This is a really exciting mission, bringing a host of highly-advanced equipment to the surface and landing in an area that could not be more promising to find traces of life.
“What a climax to the past few days of Mars missions. Perseverance will land on the surface of Mars after having undergone the so called seven minutes of terror.
“These start at 20:48 GMT when the lander enters the thin Martian atmosphere to undergo aerodynamic braking.
“This is then replaced by a parachute slowing the probe further down; it is then followed by the trademark ‘sky crane’ powered descent that will lower the rover onto the surface.
“Terrifying, because you never know what Mars throws at you for surprises while the lander carries out these complex manoeuvres by itself.”
Mars landing LIVE: Follow the latest news from NASA’s Perseverance rover landing today
4.30pm update: NASA warns the hardest part is yet to come
Due to the 11 minutes it takes signals from Perseverance to travel back from Mars to Earth, the craft is going in without human interference.
This means the feat needs to be achieved through pre-programming.
Perseverance is currently travelling at more than 47,000 miles per hour.
However, it has been programmed to “slam the breaks” as it cuts its speed in half in just a matter of minutes.
The official Perseverance Twitter account said: “Today’s the day. Trip to Mars, 99.9 percent complete.
“The most dangerous part comes last: the final seven minutes.”
Mars landing live: Brian Cox tweeted about the exciting Mars mission
4pm update: Perseverance braces for ‘unbearable landing sequence
It will take NASA’s Mars rover about seven minutes to descend through the Red Planet’s atmosphere.
During this sequence, Perseverance will act autonomously and without interference from the outside world.
TV scientist and particle physicist Brian Cox wished the rover good luck but said it will be a white-knuckle experience.
He tweeted: “This will be magnificent and absolutely unbearable to watch as always ….. ! Good luck @NASAPersevere!”
Others have also shared their excitement about the Mars landing on social media.
One person tweeted: “Planning a day that includes supervising my third-grader’s zoom lessons, catching up on grading, giving a midterm exam, reading 40 applications for a hiring committee, attending two Zoom meetings, and watching the Mars Rover landing. #MarsPerseverance”
A second person said: “Godspeed to NASA’s Perseverance Mars rover.”
Mars Perseverance facts sheet: Facts about NASA’s rover
Mars landing live: The landing sequence is known as the ‘seven minutes of terror’
Perseverance will answer the most exciting of questions – are we alone?
The primary goal of the Mars landing is to explore Jezero Crater for evidence of ancient alien life.
Perseverance will collect and analyse rock samples for chemical biomarkers – potential signs life once existed in the crater.
Scientists believe Jezero once flowed with water when Mars resembled a young Earth some 4 billion years ago.
If water was present on the surface, it stands to reason so was simple, microbial life.
Hannah Barnyard, an astronomer at the Royal Observatory Greenwich in London, told Express.co.uk: “The question of is there any other life in the Universe is one that excited most people.
“If there is evidence to suggest life once existed on our next-door neighbour, it indicates life may be prevalent throughout the Universe.
“The discovery of life on another planet would not only change the scientific community but would impact the entire global consciousness as we comprehend the fact that we are not alone.”
Jezero crater: Where Perseverance will search for alien life
The NASA rover will land inside of ancient lakebed and impact crater called Jezero.
The crater was selected by NASA’s scientists because it once flowed with water and was the site of an ancient river delta.
Jezero was selected from among 60 other candidate locations on Mars.
NASA said: “After the exhaustive five-year study of potential sites, each with its own unique characteristics and appeal, Jezero rose to the top.”
Jezero measures about 28 miles across and sits on the western edge of the Isidis Planitia plain.
The features are located just north of the Martian equator.
Perseverance will land about 2,300 miles away from where Curiosity touched down in 2012, in the Gale Crater.