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  • Writer's picturePhilip Day

Top 10 Things You Need To Know About Mars Landing on Thursday

1. NASA launched a mission back in 2017 called the Mars 2020 mission, which is due to arrive at Mars on Thursday 18th February 2021.

2. The Mars 2020 Mission is carrying two vehicles, the Perseverance Rover and the Ingenuity helicopter test-aircraft.

3. The Landing is scheduled for about 9pm UK time. The Spacecraft will smash into the Martian atmosphere at about 20:48UTC (8:48pm)

Mars 2020 will experience incredible heat as she enters the Martian atmosphere
NASA - Mars 2020 Atmospheric Entry

4. The Rover has an unusual landing sequence due to the thin atmosphere on Mars: First an ablative heat shield slows the spacecraft down from hypersonic, to supersonic speeds (thousands of miles per hour, down to hundreds). A supersonic parachute deploys to slow the spacecraft to tens of miles an hour before finally a sky-crane with retro-rockets hovers the rover about 20m above the surface. The Rover is lowered down to the ground on cables, underneath a hovering rocket, cut's itself loose and... we're down!

5. What happens to the sky-crane? That flies away to a safe distance before gracefully crashing into a near-by hill-side.

6. Perseverance is a NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) mission, primarily to drill deep into the rocks of Mars ready for a subsequent return flight for the samples all of the way back to Earth.

NASA's Perserverance Rover with extended Drilling arm lines up a Martian rock to take a sample. - Perserverance Drill

7. Ingenuity won't be the first aircraft to fly on another planet. Back in 1987 the USSR (modern day Russia) flew a high altitude balloon in the atmosphere of Venus. However, Ingenuity will be the first powered flight (think Wright brothers, vs hot air balloons) on another celestial body.

8. Perseverance was much cheaper than most Mars rovers to build because her design was based on the very visually similar Curiosity Rover which arrived at Mars' Gale Crater in 2012.

9. Perseverance is planning to land in Jezero Crater, a 49km crater which is believed was once an enormous lake.

Jezero Crater, Mars as it might have looked full of water.
NASA - Jezero Crater

10. The Mars 2020 spacecraft carries two microphones, which means that for the first time, we will be able to hear the sounds of entering the Martian atmosphere, and the sounds around Perserverance Rover as she explores the Martian landscape on arrival.

BONUS: Giant-Leap will be covering the landing attempt live on our YouTube channel. So if you found this list interesting there is much more information available during the broadcast! We will be joined by expert guests and share in NASA's live mission control feed, as well as treat you to some impressive animations showing exactly what's going on during the landing attempt!

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