‘Seven Minutes of Terror’ awaits NASA endurance on Mars descent

NASA animation showing the upcoming landing of the Perseverance rover.
Gif: NASA / JPL-Caltech / Gizmodo

In just 57 days, NASA’s Perseverance Rover will attempt to land on Mars. Mission inspectors say it will be “seven minutes of terror”, as this new portrayal demonstrates dramatically.

Produced by NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, digital animation shows key events during the entry, descent and landing (EDL) of the Perseverance Rover. The video is just over three minutes in length, which is not much shorter than the landing phase itself, which should take about seven minutes. Endurance was launched on July 30thand performs EDL on feb. 18, 2021 at 15.30 EST.

The $ 2.7 billion rover lands at the Jezero crater, the site of a former lake and river delta. Equipped with its many instruments, Endurance will seek signs of microbial life, study Mars’ weather and geology, and gather specimens for a future mission to retrieve. The rover will also implement Ingenuity, a small helicopter ready to become the first man-made aircraft to take flight in an alien world.

Of course, endurance will have to hold the landing for any of this to happen. In fact, Mars is notorious for completing missions before they have a chance to launch – the ESAs failed The Schiaparelli mission in 2017 is a recent example.

The first phase of the EDL will see the draft of the cruise scene, which hosts solar panels, radios and fuel tanks used during the journey to the red planet. The descent phase, which Endurance approaching the atmosphere, will fire small thrusters on its rear shell to orient the vehicle properly and to ensure that the heat shield faces forward. The descent phase will then see the rover care through the thin Mars atmosphere at speeds reaching 12,000 mph (19,312 km / h), according to to NASA. Should this step go as planned, the interior of the craft should not get hotter than room temperature.

A supersonic parachute is triggered when the descent phase is lowered to at least 1,000 km / h (1,609 km / h). NASA will debut a new system, the Range Trigger, to determine the most optimal moment for the parachute to deploy, which should occur approximately 240 seconds after atmospheric entry. The heat shield then falls away as it wills no longer be needed exposes the rover to the Martian atmosphere for the very first time.

Another new piece of technology, called Terrain-related navigation, use camcorders and maps to select the safest place to land.

At most, the parachute will lower the vehicle to about 200 mph (322 km / h), which requires current descent. When endurance is 2,100 meters above the surface, the rocket-propelled descent phase will kick in and slow the vessel down to a very manageable 2 km / h (3.2 km / h). A sky crane then gently lowers the 2,260-pounds (1,025-kg) rover on the surface, which it will do using a set 21 feet long (6.4-Meter long) cables. The sky crane cuts the cables when it detects a landing, and then zips away from the destination.

Only then it will genuine fun begins as the rover will be free to explore the surface of Mars. The endurance mission is expected to last for two years, but as precedent has shown, it is cshould last much longer. NASA’s Curiosity Rover, for example, landed on Mars in 2012, and it’s still going strong. We are very much looking forward to the endurance mission, but first and foremost: it must survive the dreaded seven minutes of terror.