It all comes down to this. Entry, descent, and landing. A few tiny words for one tremendous feat.
Mission-critical entry descent and landing is often referred to as the ‘seven minutes of terror’. It is the shortest but most critical and most dangerous phase of the entire mission.”
We call it mission critical event.
Descent landing is all about getting it to the top of the Martian atmosphere, the ground safely.
Easier said than done, because when perseverance reaches the red planet, it’s screaming.
We go from 12000 miles an hour down to about one mile an hour in just a few minutes.
There’s a lot that the spacecraft has to go through autonomously to slam on the brake in that short period of time.
The first thing that happens is we’ve been carrying something called the crew stage. It’s the circular flying saucer-looking object. We let that go. We separate that.
So first we’ll use the atmosphere to slow down, streaking across the Martian sky, kind of like a meteor. But not only just perseverance have to survive the intense heating and deceleration, but it also has to steer its way to the landing party to using thrusters.
We make these tiny little adjustments to make sure that we are staying on target.
We willl slow down to about a thousand miles an hour like an F 18 fighter jet. We’ll deploy a giant twenty one and a half meter parachute.
Actually the largest supersonic planetary parachute that we ever deployed on another planet.
That big parachute really isn’t enough to slow perseverance down for landing. In fact, she’s still going about as fast as a skydiver would be going if you jumped out of the plane here on Earth.
Hurdling towards the surface and headed into hazard.
Jethro is the most dangerous landing site we’ve ever attempted to land at.
This was the landing site that the Curiosity team considering landing in. But it was actually deemed too dangerous.
But perseverance is primed with a new program to pick where she wants to land.
We have a new system called terrain relative navigation. Basically, this river flies with its eyes wide open. It has a map.
Which allows us to basically make an autonomous decision on the spacecraft about where she wants to land. We can identify and avoid hazardous terrain.
At just the right altitude. It’s going to let go of the parachute and then fly on a jet pack that we call the descent stage.
Once we’re in the area that we want to be in, it executes the sky crane maneuver. So the sky crane slowly lowers the rover down and then touches the rover down on its wheels on the surface of Mars.
The descent stage and fly away and our rover will be ready to go.
But even sent back at the speed of light, that delicate data will be on a delay.
We actually will not find out whether perseverance has made it or not until 11 minutes after it’s actually happened.
It takes over 11 minutes for signals to travel from Earth to Mars and from Mars. That’s part of what makes these seven minutes really exciting, is that the spacecraft has to do this portion of the mission entirely autonomously, entirely by itself.
So there’s no way we’re going to be able to control this hands-off. She has to fly herself. We’re confident that she’s in the best position to succeed and that success will be beaming back to Earth from cameras capturing the entire thing. We can see it in high definition and video.
These simple little pictures that she takes of her surroundings. But it’s really critical and really important and mind-blowing. We simply like proof of life that she’s alive. She landed the way we expected her to.
So much riding on a rocket ship with all the world watching.
There’s a lot that has to go right. It is not easy. Success is not guaranteed. Mars gets a vote. And there are many, many things that have to go right and be quite a day.