Mark your calendars folks, NASA’s latest rover, the Mars Perseverance Rover, is just a mere 100 days away from making history and landing on the big red planet. That equals to around 268 million kilometers, or 8,640,000 seconds before it finally touches down, according to NASA.
“While we call the six-and-a-half-month trip from Earth to Mars ‘cruise,’ I assure you there is not much croquet going on at the lido deck,” said Project Manager John McNamee of JPL. “Between checking out the spacecraft, and planning and simulating our landing and surface operations, the entire team is on the clock, working toward our exploration of Jezero Crater.”
Once the Perseverance Rover finally makes it to Mars, its first mission will be to explore the Jezero Crater, an area of the planet believed to be the site of a Martian lake billions of years ago. Once there, it will search for signs of ancient microbial life, collect and cache Martian rock and regolith (broken rock and dust), and of course, pave the way for human exploration of the Red Planet.
On November 9, NASA’s mission team confirmed that the propulsion subsystem of the descent stage, which will help lower the rover onto Mars, is in good working order. Then, on November 10, they turned their attention to the rover’s PIXL and SHERLOC instruments. On December 18, the mission team plans to perform a trajectory correction maneuver, using the cruise stage’s eight thrusters to refine the spacecraft’s path toward Mars.
Another important mission milestone will take place on November 16, when the team begins a five-day simulation of surface operations, including driving the rover and conducting a sampling.
“The Mars 2020 mission is part of a larger program that includes missions to the Moon as a way to prepare for human exploration of the Red Planet. Charged with returning astronauts to the Moon by 2024, NASA will establish a sustained human presence on and around the Moon by 2028 through NASA’s Artemis lunar exploration plans.” NASA explained on its website.
Take a look at how NASA has been preparing to land the rover below: