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Mars Perseverance Landing 

 February 16, 2021

By  Mike Oitzman

Mars Perseverance Mission

The NASA Mars Perseverance rover landed successfully on Mars on Thursday, February 18, at 3:55 PM (Eastern).

The mission of the NASA's Mars 2020 Perseverance Rover is to search for signs of ancient life, collect samples for the future return to Earth and help pave the way for human exploration. The rover will carry with it several technology demonstrations including a helicopter, which will attempt humanity's first powered flight on another planet. Perseverance has a new set of science instruments and the ability to “self-drive” on the Martian surface. 

Overview Of The Perseverance Mars Rover

The Landing Sequence: 7 Minutes of Terror

The landing sequence for rovers onto the surface of Mars is known as the "7 minutes of terror" because of the distance and time delay between Mars and Earth. The entry and landing on Mars is completely autonomous for the spacecraft and lander, as there is no way for controllers on Earth to manage it in real-time.

As a result, by the time that the team at NASA gets a message from the space craft that it is entering the atmosphere of Mars, the spacecraft will have either successfully (or unsuccessfully) landed on Mars. Figure 1 below outlines the steps to slowing down from 39.600 kph to 0 kph on the surface of Mars.

The 7 minutes of terror landing sequence for entering Mars atmosphere

Figure 1 - The "7 minutes of terror" landing sequence for entering Mars atmosphere (image courtesy of NASA)

The Mars Perseverance spacecraft is made of 5 primary components. During the entry sequence, Perseverance will shed 4 of the 5 elements, leaving the Perseverance Rover safely on the surface of Mars.

The five piece diagram of the Mars Perseverance entry vehicle

Figure 2 - The five piece diagram of the Mars Perseverance entry vehicle (image courtesy of NASA)

The magic of the entry sequence occurs at the very last step, when a "space crane" slows the vehicle down and gently places the Perseverance rover on the surface via a set of straps. The rockets engine powered crane then cuts the straps and flies off for a crash landing, as far as possible from the Perseverance rover.

This touchdown concept was successfully used for Mars Curiosity rover placement on Mars.

Mars Mission Goals

There are are a couple of key mission goals for Perseverance.

  1. Identify past environments capable of supporting microbial life.
  2. Seek signs of possible past microbial life in those habitable environments, particularly in special rocks known to preserve signs of life over time.
  3. Cache samples: Collect core rock and "soil" samples and store them on the Martian surface.
  4. Test oxygen production from the Martian atmosphere, in advance of future human exploration on Mars.

3D Model Of Perseverance Rover

3D Model Of Ingenuity Helicopter

The Ingenuity Helicopter is a unique experiment for this mission. It will be the first time that humans attempt powered, autonomous flight on another planet.

  • Weighs 4 pounds (1.8 kg)
  • Solar-powered and recharges on its own
  • Wireless communication system
  • Counter-rotating blades spin about 2,400 rpm
  • Equipped with computers, navigation sensors, and two cameras (one color and one black-and-white)

To Learn More About Mars Perseverance

About the author 

Mike Oitzman

Mike Oitzman brings 25 years of product management and product marketing experience to the role of publisher and editor for Mobile Robot Guide. Mike is a respected expert in the mobile robot market and is a frequent panel leader and speaker at events and tradeshows.

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