The Perseverance spacecraft is close to starting the landing maneuver on Mars to study the planet’s soil. This period before the arrival is the moment of greatest tension of the mission: after all, it is the one that determines if all the effort of launch and the trip will be rewarded or not.
This period of nervousness involves entering the atmosphere of Mars, the process of descent and landing – affectionately called “seven minutes of terror” by astronauts, in relation to the duration of this fully automated procedure.
Without any form of manual control of the robot, the agency learns whether it was successful only later, when new data is sent from the probe to NASA’s system.
The seven minutes of terror
Before counting starts, Perseverance is decoupled from the main part of the transport module. Then it begins to descend into the atmosphere at a speed of up to 20,000 km / h. At this point, the heat shield helps to dissipate heat until speed is restored.
A supersonic parachute is then launched to leave the probe in position and slow down even more. But the problems are not over: the Jezero crater, chosen for landing and studies, is extremely uneven ground and can damage equipment on arrival.
So, Perserverance has an intelligent system that takes photos of the surface before landing to understand the terrain situation and adjust in advance to the best place to land.
When defining the location, the parachute is removed and propulsion rockets are activated to ensure stability. At a height of 20 meters, the upper structure slowly launches the probe to the ground from a cable and flies to another point on Mars. Perserverance is then ready to act.
Perserverance is due to begin landing maneuvers at 4 pm (Brasília time) on February 18, with transmission through the NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory YouTube channel.