NASA’s Perseverance Rover is scheduled to land on the surface of Mars in about 3 hours, and the countdown to the much-anticipated event has begun. To include science enthusiasts into the process, NASA has asked users to upload videos of their anticipation to the landing as well as their reactions to the landing process on social media with the tag ‘#CountdownToMars’. While enthusiasts await to witness the live telecast on the landing of Perseverance on the Martian surface, the scientists at NASA are worried about the ‘7 minutes of terror’.
Perseverance was set to enter the Martian atmosphere on February 18 at about 3:48 pm EST or 2:18 am IST on February 19. It takes a spacecraft seven minutes from entering the top of the Martian atmosphere to land on its surface, which means that the landing is scheduled for 3:55 pm EST or 2:25 am IST on February 19.
These seven minutes, however, constitute a very risky time, as NASA is aiming to land the Perseverance rover on the Jezero crater, which is a very risky and difficult terrain. In order to land properly, NASA has fitted its probe with a heat shield that drove the spacecraft to the Martian atmosphere, after which a supersonic parachute, the biggest one sent to another planet yet as per NASA, would decelerate the spacecraft. Then, once Perseverance assesses its position and the terrain where it needs to land, a sky crane would take Perseverance closer to the Martian surface and gently place it on the surface with the help of cables.
The mission is a huge one as it aims to probe the signs of ancient microbial life in the Jezero Crater, which is believed to be a lake bed, and it also aims to stow away rock and samples from the Martian surface to be brought back to Earth later. However, none of this would be possible if Perseverance is not able to assess and carry out its landing properly, made more difficult by the cliffs and the rocks that dot the surface of the Red Planet.
However, the anticipation of these ‘7 minutes of terror’ and the hope that Perseverance would brave them, is what has led to NASA counting down the minutes to the historic landing.