Mars Rover Landing: What Is Happening And How To Watch It

Mars Rover Landing: What Is Happening And How To Watch It
Image: NASA/JPL-Caltech
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Perseverance, NASA’s latest Mars Rover, has been on a six-and-a-half-month journey from Earth to the Red Planet. It is set to make it descent on to the surface of Mars on 18 February, at around 12.30 pm Eastern Standard Time (EST). As a reference, Singapore is 13 hours ahead of EST.


Mark Rober’s Mars Rover Video

The Perseverance Mars Rover is the latest to land on Mars. While others have a wide landing area, Perseverance will have a much more precise landing zone and is targeting a crater that scientists think was formerly a lake.

YouTuber Mark Rober recently released a video which provided a good overview of what will happen. For those who aren’t familiar with Mark Rober, he was formerly a NASA engineer and was involved in the development of the last Mars Rover, Curiosity. This makes him uniquely qualified to explain what be taking place.

The Mark Rober video can be viewed above or here.


What Will be Happening: Perseverance Mars Rover Landing – 7 Minutes to Mars

If you think landing an unmanned vehicle on another planet is easy, think again. The process is known as “seven minutes of terror”, a period where Perseverance makes its way autonomously down to the planet’s surface. These seven minutes could either make or break the entire mission.

In case you don’t wish to watch Rober’s 17 minute video, to oversimplify things, what will happen is that the Perseverance will first separate from the spaceship which it has been travelling on since the middle of last year.

It will descend faster than a speeding bullet (take that Superman!) into the Martian atmosphere. As it does, the bottom of the spacecraft will glow red-hot. First, a parachute will deploy to slow it down. Then, a separate jetpack will use rockets to slow it down even further and fly it to the targeted landing zone.

Finally, a sky crane will gently lower the rover to the Mars surface at human walking speed. This is expected to take place at 3.55 pm, EST, or 4.55 am in Singapore (SGT) on 19 February 2021.

Also, because of the sheer distance between Mars and Earth, there will be a 12-minute delay in the transmission of signals from the rover to NASA. A bit like a lag in your internet connection, except on an inter-planetary scale.

The Perseverance has a few unique features compared to past rovers. Besides being able to land with more precision, it also has a drone. This will be the first time that flight is being tested out on Mars.

Part of its mission is also to search for life on Mars. The rover will be able to drill into the surface to collect blackboard chalk-length soil samples. These will be picked up in the future to be sent back to Earth.


How to Watch the Mars Rover Landing

If you want to watch the Mars Rover landing, NASA TV will be providing Perseverance Mars Rover landing day livestream from 12.30 pm EST on 18 February (1.30 am SGT, 19 February).

There will be live landing coverage from 2.15 pm EST (3.15 am SGT, 19 February) leading up to the landing at approximately 3.55 pm EST (4.55 am SGT, 19 February). If you happen to be awake at that time, you can tune in to NASA TV here.

Or here it is below too.

Alternatively, you can wake up to find out if the Mars rover has managed to successfully land on our closest planetary neighbour.

You can learn more about the Perseverance Mars Rover Landing here.