NASA’s Mars rover ready for 7 minutes of terror

Chennai: Over two hours past midnight in India on Friday (at 3.55pm EST on Thursday), NASA’s Perseverance Mars Lander is expected to touch down on Martian soil. It will become the US agency’s fifth rover on Mars.

The third in a series of Mars missions that took advantage of a launch window in 2020, NASA’s attempt is arguably the most ambitious. Perseverance will land in the Jezero Crate—a basin believed to have been the site where an ancient river deposited its contents onto a delta around 3.5 billion years ago, and a site that NASA has said would be the most challenging it has ever attempted to land on.

Perseverance will enter the top of the Martian atmosphere at a speed of about 19,500 kph as it separates from the rest of the spacecraft.

While descending, the bottom of the spaceraft is expected to heat up to temperatures as high as 1,300 C, aided by a heat shield that will detach 20 seconds after the parachute deploys. Then, a radar will determine how far the craft is from the ground and employ the ‘Terrain Relative Navigation’ technology to find a safe landing site.