NASA's Perseverance Rover to land on Mars Thursday afternoon

WATCH: Perseverance Lands on Mars Today in '7 Minutes of Terror'

NASA's Perseverance rover, with the Ingenuity Mars Helicopter attached to its belly, is on track to land on the Red Planet tomorrow, February 18, 2021. All three of the missions launched in July to take advantage of the shorter distance between Earth and Mars at the time.

Now that it has landed safely, the rover will begin looking for ancient signs of life.

Scientists hope to find biosignatures embedded in samples of ancient sediments that Perseverance is created to extract from Martian rock for analysis back on Earth - the first such specimens ever collected by humankind from another planet.

All of this imaging technology has a objective: to enable the rover to make its way, under supervision from NASA, around Jezero Crater and examine the ancient rocks and river delta remnants there for signs of ancient microbial life.

The computer controls a visual navigation algorithm using Mars surface geographical features tracked with the camera. If things go well, Ingenuity will become the first aircraft of its kind ever flown on another planet.

The one-way time it takes for radio signals to travel from Earth to Mars is about 11 minutes, which means the seven minutes it takes for the spacecraft to land on Mars occurs without any help or intervention from NASA teams on Earth.

Landing on Mars is never easy, and even though Nasa has become expert at it, everyone on the Perseverance team had spoken with great caution going into Thursday. But JPL engineers made this possible by equipping Perseverance with new technologies that gave the rover the autonomy to avoid such hazards without relying on instructions from handlers on Earth.

The now dry and dusty 28-mile-wide Jezero Crater shows unmistakable signs of having been filled with liquid water billions of years ago.

The $2.7 billion mission, known as Mars 2020, launched July 30 of past year on a United Launch Alliance Atlas 5.

Perseverance, a six-wheeled, SUV-sized vehicle with the most sophisticated robotic astrobiology lab ever launched and an experimental aerial drone aboard, is at the heart of the Mars 2020 mission. Firing the rockets rapidly eliminated the remaining speed and steered the rover towards its landing zone where it was finally lowered to the ground from a hover via a "sky crane" similar to the one used to land Curiosity. Follow-up missions will return samples of this site collected by Perseverance to Earth by the 2030s.

Illustration of the Perseverance rover, with its heat shield facing the planet, as it begins its descent through the Martian atmosphere.

"So, this isn't just a NASA effort and there's scientists from all over the world who will want the data from this mission", said Nichols. "We're really on the verge of being able to potentially answer these enormous questions". Instruments small enough to be sent to Mars wouldn't have the necessary precision.

The Jezero Crater is where the Perseverance rover, with FiberTech Optica's technology onboard, landed Thursday. The European Space Agency also has tried and failed. This will help NASA study how to produce oxygen from Mars' carbon dioxide atmosphere, an important step for the future of human exploration on Mars.

"I can tell you that Perseverance is operating perfectly right now, and that all systems are go for landing", Jennifer Trosper, a NASA deputy project manager for the rover mission, said during a press briefing Tuesday.



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