The US space agency (NASA) has released an animation on February 18 showing how its one-ton diligent rover will land on Mars.
The robot is sent to the abyss of Jessero, where it searches for evidence of past life. But to carry out this science, it must first be gently touched.
The sequence of maneuvers required to land on Mars is often referred to as “seven-minute terrorism” – and for good reason.
Will have to go so accurately in the frighteningly short interval or the task to come will be to dig the biggest and most expensive new hole in the Red Planet.
What’s more, it’s all autonomous.
At a distance of 209 million km (130 million miles) between Earth and Mars, every movement you see in the animation at every moment must be commanded by internal computers.
It starts more than 100 km from Mars, where the diligent rover will face the first options of the atmosphere.
At this point, the vehicle, in its safety capsule, travels at a speed of 20,000 km / h (12,000 mph).
For more than 400 seconds, the descent system must reduce this speed to less than 1 m / s above the surface.
Most of the work is done by thermal shielding.
When the capsule sinks deep into the Martian air, it heats up to over 1,000 C – but at the same time, dramatically reduces traction.
By the time the supersonic parachute was deployed from the rear of the capsule, the speed had already been reduced to 1,200 km / h.
Diligence will ride the 21.5m wide parachute for more than a minute, further clearing that entry speed.
However, more complex phases are yet to come.
When moving at an altitude of 2 km, and at a speed of 100 m / s – the diligent rover and its “skycrane” will fall apart from the rear.
Eight rockets ignite in the cradle, bringing the rover to a circular position above the surface. Nylon cords are used to lower billions of dollars into the wheel of the vehicle.
But it is not there yet.
When diligent contact is felt, it should immediately unplug the cables or be pulled behind the crane as it flies into the cradle to dispose of itself at a safe distance.
The sequence looks similar to the one used to place NASA’s last rover Curiosity 12 years ago on the surface of Mars. However, navigation tools have been improved to put perseverance into a more precisely defined landing zone.
Touchdown afternoon, local time, is expected on Mars – just before 21:00 GMT on Earth.
On the day of the landing, it is worth remembering that the time it takes for a radio signal to reach Earth from Mars is about 700 seconds.
This means that by the time NASA diligently receives the message that it is engaged in the orbit of the atmosphere, the mission may have already been dead or alive on the planet’s surface for several minutes.
The robot will record its descent on camera and microphones. Media files will be sent to Earth after landing – assuming diligence survives.
Read our guide to perseverance (also known as the Mars 2020 Mission) – where it goes and what it does.
“Food expert. Unapologetic bacon maven. Beer enthusiast. Pop cultureaholic. General travel scholar. Total internet buff.”