Perseverance to Reach Mars in '7 Minutes of Terror' Landing

The rover will collect rock and soil samples from a site in the Jezero Crater that may have once fostered ancient life.

Video Transcript

MEG HILLING: The countdown to touchdown is on as NASA's Perseverance Rover approaches the red planet.

JENNIFER TROSPER: I can tell you that Perseverance is operating perfectly right now, that all systems are go for landing.

MEG HILLING: After traveling through space for roughly seven months, the rover is set to land on Mars Thursday. The mission-- collect rock and soil samples from a site in the Jezero Crater, which is believed to be an ancient river delta that once fostered life. The goal-- bring those samples back to Earth during a future NASA mission.

Weighing over 2,200 pounds, the car-sized rover has many technical upgrades from his predecessors. These include 23 cameras, two microphones, and seven unique scientific instruments, such as MOXIE.

JEFF SHEEHY: MOXIE uses a thermal and electrochemical process to convert carbon dioxide into oxygen. During the mission of Perseverance on Mars, we expect MOXIE to have at least 10 opportunities to produce oxygen.

MEG HILLING: Tucked among all of this equipment, a helicopter, known as Ingenuity, that will attempt to fly in the planet's thin atmosphere. But before any experiments can begin or samples collected, the rover needs to navigate an entry, descent, and landing process known as the Seven Minutes of Terror. During the slamming of the brakes, a supersonic parachute will pop to help slow down the spacecraft containing the rover.

ERISA STILLEY: Once Perseverance is descending on the parachute, we can now release that heat shield that protected us during entry, and for the first time turn on the radar and start to look at the ground.

MEG HILLING: Using technology known as terrain-relative navigation, the rover will determine the safest spot to land. NASA says the rover will then break away from its parachute and steer itself closer to the ground with rockets. During the final stage of landing, a sky crane will lower the rover and ultimately drop it onto the surface of Mars. Once safely on the planet, NASA says Perseverance's real mission begins. For Newsy, I'm Meg Hilling.