NASA's Mars rover Perseverance is just a day away from landing on the Red Planet surface, and you can watch the event live online. Launched in July 2020, Perseverance is the latest mission commissioned to assess how habitable Mars was in the ancient past. The US-based space agency says that spacecraft is healthy and on target to touch down in Jezero Crater on February 18 at around 3:55 PM EST (February 19 at 2:25 AM IST). Jezero is a basin where scientists believe an ancient river flowed into a lake and deposited sediments in a fan shape known as a delta.
People around the world will get to watch the drama of Perseverance's entry, descent, and landing (EDL) – the riskiest portion of the rover's mission that some engineers call the "seven minutes of terror" – live on NASA TV or NASA YouTube Channel. The commentary has already begun and the landing process will start at 3:38 PM EST tomorrow, (2:08 AM IST, February 19). NASA says that a variety of factors can affect the precise timing of the landing as the Martian atmosphere is difficult to predict until the spacecraft actually flies through.
NASA's Mars 2020 Perseverance rover will be the agency's fifth rover on the Red Planet. Thomas Zurbuchen, associate administrator for the Science Mission Directorate at NASA Headquarters in Washington describes the Jezero as the "most challenging" Martian terrain ever targeted for a landing. "Perseverance is NASA's most ambitious Mars rover mission yet, focused scientifically on finding out whether there was ever any life on Mars in the past," said Zurbuchen in a blog post published by NASA.
NASA adds that the rover will characterise the planet's geology and past climate to pave the way for human exploration of the Red Planet. The Mars 2020 mission is part of a larger NASA initiative that includes missions to the Moon as a way to prepare for human exploration of the Red Planet. NASA will establish a sustained human presence on and around the Moon through NASA's Artemis lunar exploration plans.