The Perseverance Rover Landing
Perseverance will touch down on Mars on Thursday, Feb. 18, 2021, at approximately 12:30 p.m. PST (3:30 p.m. EST). During landing, the rover plunges through the thin Martian atmosphere, with the heat shield first, at a speed of over 12,000 mph (about 20,000 kph). A parachute and powered descent slow the rover down to about 2 mph (three-fourths of a meter per second). A large sky crane then lowers the rover on three bridle cords to land softly on six wheels. Landing on Mars is hard. Read all about the rover’s harrowing entry, descent and landing.
Landing at Jezero Crater
The rover’s new home is Jezero Crater, a large impact crater about 28 miles wide (45 kilometers wide) just north of the Martian equator. Jezero once contained a lake, which scientists think is one of the most ideal places to find evidence of ancient microbial life. If life exists anywhere else in our solar system, chances are, it might be at Jezero Crater. The main question Perseverance is trying to answer is: Was there ever ancient life on Mars? To answer that question, the rover will collect and store the most compelling rock and soil samples for return to Earth by a future mission. Once on Earth, scientists can use a variety of sophisticated instruments, many of them too large and bulky to transport to Mars, to help answer this question.