The US space agency (Nasa) has released an animation showing how its one-ton Perseverance Rover will land on Mars on February 18.
The robot is sent to a crater called Jezero, where it will search for evidence of past life. But to tackle this science, it must first become gentle.
The sequence of ways needed to land on Mars is often called the “seven minutes of terror” – and with good reason.
So much needs to go right within a terrifying time, or the upcoming mission will dig a very large and very expensive new hole in the Red Planet.
What’s more, it’s all autonomous.
With a distance on the day of 209 million km (Earth and Mars) between Earth and Mars, every moment and every movement you see in the animation must be recommended by computers on board.
It starts more than 100 km above Mars where the Perseverance Rover will encounter the first sneak motifs in the atmosphere.
At this stage, the vehicle is traveling in its protective capsule at 20,000 km / h (12,000 mph).
In a little over 400 seconds, the descent system should reduce this velocity to less than 1 m / s at the surface.
Most work is done by a heat shield.
As the capsule dips deeper into the Mars air, it becomes super hot at more than 1 000 C – but at the same time the resistance slows down the fall dramatically.
By the time the supersonic parachute starts from the back cover of the capsule, the speed has already been reduced to 1,200 km / h.
Perseverance will drive the 21.5m parachute for just over a minute, further scrubbing the access speed.
However, the most complicated phases have yet to come.
At an altitude of 2 km and while moving at 100 m / s – the Perseverance Rover and its “Skycrane” separate from the rear and fall away.
Eight rockets then ignite on the cradle to bring the stray beam into a hovering position just above the surface. Nylon cords are used to lower the multi-billion dollar vehicle to the ground.
But it’s still not quite there.
When endurance detects contact, it must break the cables immediately, otherwise it will be dragged behind the crane while the cradle flies away to throw it away at a safe distance.
The series looks very similar to what was used to place Nasa’s last rover, Curiosity, on the surface of Mars eight years ago. However, the navigation aids have been improved to place perseverance in a still precisely defined landing zone.
Touchdown is expected in the late afternoon, local time, on Mars – just before 21:00 GMT on Earth.
It is worth remembering that on the day of landing it will take about 700 seconds before a radio signal reaches Earth from Mars.
This means that when Nasa receives the message from Perseverance that it has occupied the top of the atmosphere, the mission would have been dead or alive on the planet’s surface for several minutes.
The robot will record its descents on camera and with microphones. The media stocks will be sent back to Earth after landing – if we assume that Perseverance survives.
Read our perseverance manuals (also known as the Mars 2020 mission) – where it’s going and what it’s going to do.