Update: NASA’s Perseverance rover has successfully landed on Mars! We’ve got all the juicy details right here.
Later today, engineers at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory will attempt a feat that is terrifying and impressive in equal measures: Landing a rover on Mars. The Perseverance rover, along with its helicopter sidekick Ingenuity, has been traveling to Mars since summer last year.
Now, it’s set to arrive at the red planet on Thursday, February 18, and execute the extremely challenging landing maneuver that will allow it to touch down safely and begin its search for signs of ancient life.
How to watch the landing
The rover is scheduled to land on Mars at approximately 3:55 p.m. ET/12:55 p.m. PT on Thursday, February 18. NASA will be livestreaming coverage of the event, including mission commentary on its TV channel, NASA TV, as well as its website, beginning at 2 p.m. ET/11 a.m. PT.
You can tune in using the video embedded at the top of this page.
If you prefer to see what the engineers themselves are up to during landing, there will also be a clean feed of cameras from the Jet Propulsion Lab’s Mission Control, with mission audio only instead of commentary. You can tune into that feed via JPL’s Raw YouTube channel, or see a blend of mission control and landing commentary on JPL’s main YouTube channel.
What to expect from the landing
Perseverance is approaching its seven minutes of terror, in which the rover’s spacecraft will need to slow from 12,000 mph down to a comfortable landing speed using a combination of a parachute, a descent stage with engines pointed downward, and the rover being lowered to the surface on cables.
One of the (many) challenges of this maneuver is the communication delay of up to 20 minutes on Mars, meaning that engineers can’t control the landing directly — they have programmed the craft to perform the landing and can only wait and watch to see if it is successful.
Around half of all missions to Mars fail, and a landing is always a nail-biting event. But the NASA team can have some confidence, as both the rover and the landing procedure are very similar to the Curiosity rover, which successfully landed on Mars in 2012. Everyone is hoping for a repeat of another smooth landing.
“If there’s one thing we know, it’s that landing on Mars is never easy,” said Marc Etkind, NASA’s associate administrator for communications. “But as NASA’s fifth Mars rover, Perseverance has an extraordinary engineering pedigree and mission team. We are excited to invite the entire world to share this exciting event with us!”
In the days after the landing, on Friday, February 19, and Monday, February 22, there will be updates at 1 p.m. ET and 2 p.m. ET, respectively, on the health and status of the rover.
- NASA confirms Thursday’s touchdown time for Mars rover
- NASA to release actual footage of Mars rover landing. Here’s how to watch
- Revealed! The secret message on Perseverance rover’s Mars parachute
- Thursday’s special space event turns Empire State Building red
- Watch Mars landing highlights, including first images from rover