radio silence

7 minutes of terror: Here's how NASA's Perseverance rover will land on Mars

For more than 6 months, NASA's Perseverance rover has travelled through deep space, inching ever-closer to its final destination: Mars.

Video: NASA

NASA

The rover launched at 7:50 a.m. Eastern on July 30. Perseverance is tasked with an unprecedented mission to hunt for clues of ancient microbial life on Mars.

Perseverance will explore the Jezero Crater, taking precious rock samples from this ancient lakebed and storing them for future analysis.

ESA/DLR/FU-Berlin

NASA

On February 18, the car-sized robot will land on Mars. But to make the landing, the rover will need to undergo a series of terrifying, intricate maneuvers.

Ultimately, these moments will decide the fate of the entire mission.

Bhavik Jagani / EyeEm/EyeEm/Getty Images

NASA

As it makes the descent, Perseverance will be entirely alone. Here on Earth, NASA ground control will also experience seven minutes of terrifying radio silence.

Bhavik Jagani / EyeEm/EyeEm/Getty Images

Once it enters the Martian atmosphere, NASA loses communication with the rover for a period of time known as the "seven minutes of terror."

NASA

The Perseverance rover will enter the Martian atmosphere while still enclosed in its aeroshell.

The spacecraft's heat shield will — hopefully — prevent it from burning up as it makes the descent.

NASA

The spacecraft will be traveling at nearly 12,500 miles per hour, firing its thrusters to direct itself through its descent.

As it slows, temperatures will heat up to almost 2,370 degrees Fahrenheit. But nestled within its aeroshell, the rover will remain at a safe room temperature.

NASA/JPL-Caltech

NASA

10 minutes before entering the atmosphere, the aeroshell separates from the spacecraft. It then begins a phase of 'guided entry' to the Martian surface.

240 seconds after Perseverance enters the Martian atmosphere, it deploys a parachute from an altitude of about seven miles above the surface of Mars.

The rover separates from the parachute and the backshell at about 6,900 feet above the ground, and is then lowered on a set of cables that are about 21 feet long.

As soon as the rover senses its wheels touch the ground, it cuts the cables that connect it to the descent stage. Meanwhile, the flying vehicle lands at a safe distance away from Perseverance.

Once it has landed, Perseverance should then send a signal to the anxious team at ground control, so they know it has landed safely.

At this point, Perseverance's mission really can begin.

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