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NASA Perseverance rover Mars landing: How to watch live this week



When it comes to space happenings, there are few as tense, exciting and high stakes as landing a vehicle on another planet. This Thursday, Feb. 18, NASA's Perseverance rover will endeavor to stick the landing on Mars, kicking off a new era in red planet exploration.

 

While NASA has a lot of experience with delivering machines to Mars (here's looking at you, Curiosity and InSight), that doesn't make it any easier this time. "Landing on Mars is hard," NASA said. "Only about 40% of the missions ever sent to Mars – by any space agency - have been successful."

 

It's going to be a wild ride. Here's what to expect on Perseverance's landing day.

 

NASA will provide live coverage of the landing. The NASA TV broadcast from mission control kicks off on Thursday, Feb. 18 at 11:15 a.m. PT. Touch down in the Jezero Crater on Mars is scheduled for around 12:30 p.m. PT.

 

Here's the times across different timezones:

 

This won't be like a rocket launch where we get to see every detail as it's happening. We will get NASA commentary and updates, views from mission control, and hopefully some images not too long after landing. It will be a must-watch event for space fans.    

 

Thurs, Feb 18

  • USA: 11:15 a.m. PT / 2:15 p.m. ET
  • Brazil: 4:15 p.m. (Rio)
  • UK: 7:15 p.m.
  • South Africa: 9:15 pm
  • Russia: 10:15 pm (Moscow)
  • United Arab Emirates: 11:15 pm

 

Fri, Feb 19

  • India: 12:45am
  • China: 3:15am
  • Japan: 4:15am
  • Australia: 6:15am AEDT

Perseverance resonates

We've been to Mars before. So why all the hype? The red planet is our solar system neighbor. It's rocky like Earth. It has a long history of water. We can imagine ourselves perhaps living there some day.

 

"The level of interest that people have in this planet is just extraordinary," Alice Gorman -- space archaeologist and associate professor at Flinders University in Australia -- told CNET. Gorman highlighted humanity's search for life beyond Earth and how Mars is a candidate for having hosting microbial life in its ancient past
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Seven minutes of terror

Mars arrivals are always harrowing. NASA calls the process EDL for "entry, descent and landing."

 

"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)," said NASA in a landing explainer. There's a reason NASA describes the landing process as "seven minutes of terror."

 

Small thrusters will fire to keep the rover on track on the potentially bumpy ride through the atmosphere. The rover's protective heat shield helps to slow it down. At an altitude of around 7 miles (11 kilometers), a supersonic parachute will deploy and Perseverance will soon separate from its heat shield.

 

NASA gave a briefing on Jan. 27 with a detailed rundown on the entire EDL sequence, including the "sky crane" maneuver, which lowers the rover the final distance to the surface using a set of cables.

 

If all goes well, Perseverance will end up standing on the surface of Mars. "The really hard part is to soft land and not crash land, and then to deploy the moving parts," said Gorman. Perseverance is not alone on the trip. It also carries a helicopter named Ingenuity in its belly. Ingenuity will be unleashed later in the mission.

 

Experiencing the landing

 

The mission is equipped with cameras and microphones designed to capture the EDL process, so we can expect to both see and hear the excitement of the landing at some point. "It will be the raw sounds of the descent and coming onto the surface," said Gorman. "So that's a whole other level of sensory engagement."

 

Perseverance is our next great hope in the search for signs of life beyond Earth. It all starts with sticking the landing.

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