ITDC INDIA EPRESS/ITDC NEWS After travelling the interplanetary distance of a whopping 480 million kilometres, the long voyage for NASA’s Mars 2020 mission is all set to reach its destination. And the excitement of space enthusiasts around Mars has peaked again! Lofted skyward on July 30, 2020, this is the fifth rover mission of the US space agency NASA to the red planet. The US is the only country to successfully carry out a rover mission on Mars so far.
Perseverance is regarded as the most ambitious Mars rover mission of NASA. The historic landing on the Martian grounds is slated for Thursday, February 18. But before achieving this feat, the Perseverance spacecraft has to face nerve-wracking ‘7 minutes of terror’. Following this, the rover is expected to land on the Martian soil at around 20:55 GMT (2:25 AM IST on Friday) near the Jezero crater—a prime location to reveal the clues of past microbial life.
Considered to be the shortest, yet most intense phase of the mission, the entire process of landing takes place in the phased manner—Entry, Descent and Landing or EDL. Landing on Mars is challenging and only 40% of all the missions have succeeded so far in achieving this feat.
“Rover missions are a surface science mission which means that the mission objectives can only be met after safely landing on the surface. The EDL process is about using the Martian atmosphere to slow down the vehicle containing the rover,” says Dr Anita Sengupta, Research Associate Professor at the USC Viterbi College of Engineering, talking to The Weather Channel India. Dr Sengupta led the development of the supersonic parachute as a member of the EDL team for the Mars Science Laboratory Curiosity Rover mission back in 2012.
The landing phase begins when the vehicle reaches the top of the Martian atmosphere at a speed of 12,500 miles per hour. This speed has to be gradually brought to zero—in just seven minutes—to avoid any damage to the instruments onboard. Moreover, the spacecraft is designed to autonomously execute the entire EDL process on its own.
NASA says that during landing it takes about 11 minutes to receive back radio signals from the rover. Hence, Percy (nickname of the Perseverance rover) has to handle everything on its own in the alien world!