NASA’s Perseverance rover and the first-ever Mars helicopter concluded a 300-million-mile journey Thursday after surviving the landing.
After launching in July from Cape Canaveral, the spacecraft carrying the rover and NASA’s 4-pound helicopter came barreling into the Martian atmosphere at supersonic speeds before completing a series of maneuvers to slow down to 1.5 mph, landing on its six wheels.
This portion of the Mars 2020 mission, known as the entry, descent and landing, or EDL, is the most dangerous. Get a breakdown of the landing timeline, minute-by-minute here.
Re-watch the final moments of EDL below:
NASA has the best success record with robotic landings on Mars but still, nearly 40% of all missions don’t make it. Tap here to read about the dangers of landing on Mars.
The mission will now set in motion a complicated plan to bring a sample of Mars soil and rocks back to Earth within the next decade.
The NASA livestream of the landing events began at 2:15 p.m. ET and for the first time was also available in Spanish.
The landing happened right on time at 3:55 p.m. ET.
View a recap of the landing events below:
4:20 p.m. Next up: helicopter deploy
After cheers and celebrations at mission control in California NASA’s Perseverance is down on Mars and communicating with Earth using spacecraft orbiting the red planet.
The rover also has a helicopter named Ingenuity strapped to its belly that will deploy shortly after a safe landing on the red planet.
The helicopter deployment takes about 10 days to drop down onto Mars, according to NASA JPL Ingenuity project manager MiMi Aung.
3:55 p.m. Touchdown Perseverance
NASA’s Mars rover Perseverance has successfully landed in Jezero Crater on Mars following a 300-million-mile journey.
“Touchdown confirmed! Perseverance safely on the surface of Mars, ready to begin seeking signs of past life,” flight controller Swati Mohan announced to back-slapping colleagues wearing masks against the coronavirus.
A few minutes later Perseverance sent back one of its first images.
3:52 p.m. Parachute deploy
Telemetry confirms the spacecraft’s 70-foot diameter parachute has deployed and the spacecraft has pushed off its heat sheild.
The rover now has a radar of the ground and will begin using its terrain relative navigation to find a safe landing spot.
3:48 p.m. Confirmation of entry
The spacecraft has begun to enter the Mars atmosphere which should help the spacecraft start slowing down. It’s still traveling at about 10,000 mph.
3:40 p.m. EDL is underway
The spacecraft has begun its entry, descent and landing phases. First, it kicked off its Cruise Stage shell, then used its thrusters to stop spinning and position itself for entry.
3:15 p.m. ‘She’s right on target’
Mars 2020 entry, descent and landing lead Allen Chen took a moment to thank all the teams involved who brought Perseverance to this moment. “She’s right on target” and “armed with the right information to help her land,” said Chen.
Other mission managers also thanked their teams for the hard work.
The spacecraft is now operating on its own before the entry phase begins.
"It hasn't been easy. I don't think we've even all been in the same room at the same time... Thanks for literally and figuratively putting us in the right position to succeed. Let's land on Mars together."— NASA (@NASA) February 18, 2021
— @NASAJPL Entry, Descent, and Landing Lead Al Chen. #CountdownToMars pic.twitter.com/bMsKw5ZEIQ
“You all should sleep in Friday because you guys have earned it,” Chen said.
Percy is now about 30 minutes from the “seven minutes of terror” before landing.
2:45 p.m. Final readiness checks
Less than 1 hour to go before the spacecraft begins the entry, descent and landing, or EDL, Mars 2020 mission control teams are performing the final readiness checks.
According to NASA, mission controllers are expected to turn off the transmitter sending commands to the spacecraft, leaving Perseverance to complete the landing sequence on its own.
The spacecraft is expected to hit the top of the Martian atmosphere at around 3:48 p.m. EST
The Deep Space Network is talking with the spacecraft. An antenna in Spain will be the first to communicate with the rover at the landing.
2:30 p.m. Perseverance is ‘go’ for entry, descent and landing
Swati Mohan, Mars 2020 Guidance, Navigation and Controls Operations, or GN&C, lead, said the spacecraft is about 9,000 miles from Mars.
“So far, she is healthy and on course,” said Mohan said, who will be providing status updates as the spacecraft makes its way down to the red planet.
2:15 p.m. Live coverage begins in 2 languages
NASA has multiple options to tune into the final two hours leading up to the Mars landing, one is at the top of this story in the video player.
For the first time, NASA is also airing Mars landing coverage in Spanish, you can watch that here.
If you want to just hear the Mars 2020 teams do their thing, listen to a clean feed from NASA’s JPL mission control here.
And finally, here is a 360-degree view of mission control.
12:45 p.m. Earthlings along for the ride
Are you landing on Mars today, too? Nearly 11 million people submitted their names to travel to Mars with Perseverance and land on the red planet.
Speaking of flights, does everyone still have their boarding passes? If you sent your name to Mars with me, you’re about to land too. Get your pass, or sign up for the next flight: https://t.co/P1ta0Ojq6T— NASA's Perseverance Mars Rover (@NASAPersevere) February 18, 2021
NASA then stenciled the names using electron beam onto three fingernail-sized silicon chips, along with the essays of the 155 finalists in NASA’s “Name the Rover” contest. The chips were then were attached to an aluminum plate on NASA’s Perseverance Mars rover at Kennedy Space Center before launching in July.
There is still a chance to submit your name for future Mars missions here.
NASA and its international partners at the European Space Agency are planning a few more robotic trips to the red planet in the next decade in order to pick up a sample hopefully collected by the Perseverance rover.
10:30 a.m. It’s Mars landing day
NASA’s rover will be the third Mars arrival this month after China and the UAE both now have spacecraft orbiting the red planet.
Ground controllers at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, are settled in for the descent of the Perseverance rover to the surface of Mars. It takes a nail-biting 11 1/2 minutes for a signal that would confirm success to reach Earth.
The 70 meter antenna at the Goldstone Deep Space Communications Complex is lit for the landing! See which antennas in the Deep Space Network are in communication with the @NASAPersevere spacecraft right now: https://t.co/A95SGKBd3m #CountdownToMars pic.twitter.com/qWYrBS1neX— NASA Mars (@NASAMars) February 18, 2021
The Deep Space Network which is used to communicate with spacecraft is keeping an eye on Perserverence as its spacecraft approaches the red planet. You can watch the antennas communicating with the spacecraft in real-time here.
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