Perseverance Mars landing: NASA should prepare for ‘terrifying’ surprises

NASA's Perseverance rover: Experts discuss Mars landing

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Following a 200 million mile journey, Perseverance is finally due to reach Mars. The speed of the rover will drop from 24,000 miles per hour to ‘just’ 12,000 miles per hour as it slams the break when it enters the Martian atmosphere.

There will then be a complex set of manoeuvres as Perseverance breaks through the skies and approaches the surface.

Astronomer Dr Daniel Brown, from Nottingham Trent University, explained the process.

He said: “This is a really exciting mission, bringing a host of highly-advanced equipment to the surface and landing in an area that could not be more promising to find traces of life.

“What a climax to the past few days of Mars missions.

“Perseverance will land on the surface of Mars after having undergone the so-called seven minutes of terror.

“These start at 8.48pm GMT when the lander enters the thin Martian atmosphere to undergo aerodynamic braking.

“This is then replaced by a parachute slowing the probe further down; it is then followed by the trademark ‘sky crane’ powered descent that will lower the rover onto the surface.”

However, the machine has to enter the planet without any human interference.

NASA has ploughed the machine with data in order to ensure a positive outcome.

But it takes data from the machine 11 minutes to traverse the solar system, meaning something could go wrong.

Dr Brown continued: “Terrifying because you never know what Mars throws at you for surprises while the lander carries out these complex manoeuvres by itself.”

NASA has also warned there are many aspects which could go wrong, stating only two-fifths of previous Mars missions have been a success.

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The space agency said: “Landing on Mars is hard. Only about 40 percent of the missions ever sent to Mars – by any space agency – have been successful.

“Hundreds of things have to go just right during this nail-biting drop.

“What’s more, Perseverance has to handle everything by itself.

“During the landing, it takes more than 11 minutes to get a radio signal back from Mars, so by the time the mission team hears that the spacecraft has entered the atmosphere, in reality, the rover is already on the ground.”

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