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Mars will receive a new visitor in 100 days’ time

In just 100 days from now, NASA’s Perseverance rover is set to land on Mars.

According to the latest information from the space agency, the touchdown will take place at 12:43 p.m. PT (3:43 p.m. ET) on February 18, 2021. For any folks who’ve puzzled over why their public transit services can’t ever seem to run on time, that’s going to sound like a remarkably specific forecast. But it’s merely a reflection of the incredible work and planning that’s gone into NASA’s groundbreaking mission.

Perseverance launched atop an Atlas V rocket from Cape Canaveral in Florida in July 2020. As of November 10, 166 million miles (268 million km) separate the rover and the red planet’s Jezero Crater — the landing site for Perseverance and the place where it will begin its highly anticipated search for signs of ancient life.

“While we call the six-and-a-half-month trip from Earth to Mars ‘cruise,’ I assure you there is not much croquet going on at the lido deck,” said John McNamee, project manager at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory. “Between checking out the spacecraft, and planning and simulating our landing and surface operations, the entire team is on the clock, working toward our exploration of Jezero Crater.”

Besides searching for signs of ancient life, NASA’s Perseverance rover will also collect rock and soil samples for return to Earth at a later date, and compile data for future human exploration of the faraway planet. The mission will also see an aircraft fly for the very first time on another planet when the Ingenuity helicopter, which is traveling with Perseverance, takes off from the Martian surface for its maiden flight.

To mark 100 days from touchdown, the team posted a short video (below) showing Perseverance being put through various tests and rehearsals to give it the best chance of a safe landing.

100 days left in my #CountdownToMars. My team has put me (and themselves) through all kinds of tests and rehearsals to get ready for the big day: Feb. 18, 2021.

— NASA's Perseverance Mars Rover (@NASAPersevere) November 10, 2020

The next big event happening during the rover’s mammoth space trip occurs on December 18 when NASA is expected to perform what’s known as a “trajectory correction maneuver” using the cruise stage’s eight thrusters to refine the spacecraft’s path toward Mars.

NASA’s mission isn’t the only one on its way to Mars, with separate spacecrafts from China and the United Arab Emirates also on track to reach the planet in February 2021.

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