Mars 2020’s Perseverance Rover lands on the surface of Mars | This Day in Space (18 Feb. 2021)

How on Earth (err.. Mars?) has it been a full year since NASA’s latest Mars rover landed on the surface of Mars!

The rover launched back on July 30, 2020 on an Atlas V 541 rocket and traveled for over 200 days before landing on the surface of the Red Planet.

People around the world were waiting for this moment, waiting for updates from NASA on the success of this multi-billion dollar mission.

With how far away Mars is from Earth, NASA engineers had no way to control descent, and news of the success or failure would arrive several minutes after the events had completed.

Thankfully, all went well during this landing procedure, letting mission control and space-fans around the world let out a sigh of relief.

Check out this 360º video in mission control at NASA’s Jet Propulsion laboratory the moment the safe touchdown (at 1:46:20).

While, at the time, there were no photos or video of the landing, once Perseverance was safely on the surface it could begin to send back the important (and really cool!) video.

Just a few days after landing, we were treated to excellent video of the landing that excellently showed the different steps in landing.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

It’s about ten minutes prior to atmospheric entry that the cruise stage separates. The heatshield and back shell protect the rover during the high-heat and high-decelaration of reentry. Four minutes after that start of reentry, the capsule’s parachute was deployed, and shortly after that the heat shield below the rover was deployed.

That parachute contained a coded message, “Dare Mighty Things,” JPL’s motto.

With the radar locking onto a position in the Jezero Crater, and almost six minutes after the start of reentry and slightly over a mile above the surface, the backshell and parachute separated from the rover and its descent stage.

Perseverance Rover’s Entry, Descent and Landing Profile: This illustration shows the events that occur in the final minutes of the nearly seven-month journey that NASA’s Perseverance rover takes to Mars. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech.

That led one of the more nervewracking and evenful looking moments of landing, the skycrane maneuver. The descent stage had started its thrusters, continuing to slow the descent, then the rover itself began to separate from the skycrane, with a 20-foot cable lowering Perseverance as the rover deployed its legs and wheels.

Immediately after Perseverance touched the surface it severed the cables, and the descent stage flew away, crashing into the surface of Mars a significant distance from the Rover.

One year later, Perseverance has begun collecting samples for a future return to Earth, and has been studying Mars’ surface for signs of past life. Its companion, Ingenuity, is coming up on its 20th flight, demonstrating its value to the Mars 2020 mission. And with all of this, the mission has barely made a dent in its 10-year life expectancy.

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