Seven months ago, the united states, china and the united arab emirates launched missions on a 300 million mile 480 million kilometer journey to mars. Last week, two of the three missions quietly arrived and inserted themselves into mars orbit the final spacecraft to arrive, nasa’s mars 2020 perseverance mission, however, will not go gently into the martian atmosphere. On thursday february 18, nasa’s latest mars mission destined to uncover evidence of ancient microbial life on the distant planet is set to touch down following a spectacular display of extremely complex engineering. Launching to the red planet is a strategic maneuver that can only be completed once every two years. This is due to the varying speeds in the elliptical shape of the planet’s orbits around the sun. The point at which earth and mars are aligned close enough to minimize travel time called an opposition occurs only once every two years, the most recent opposition occurred in july 2020. Four international mars missions were intended to leave earth that summer. However, dunta required further certification of parachutes. The european space agency’s exomars, rosalind franklin rover, would have to wait for its launch opportunity during the next planetary opposition to occur in 2022. That left three robotic invaders from the united states, the united arab emirates and china to escape earth’s orbit and become interplanetary superstars. The last of the three mars missions, nasa’s mars 2020 perseverance mission, launched on july 30, 2020 from cape canaveral space force station aboard a united launch alliance atlas v rocket as far as mars arrivals go.

The best has certainly been saved for last, following the success of the other two missions from china and the united arab emirates. The stage is set for perseverance to make its dramatic entrance nasa’s mars. 2020 perseverance mission is by far the most ambitious mission to launch to mars during the 2020 planetary transfer window. Nasa is not attempting to land one, but two spacecraft. On the surface of mars, the 2.4 billion mars 2020 mission is comprised of the perseverance rover powered by the heat produced by radioactive decay of plutonium and a first of its kind rotary helicopter called ingenuity. It is scheduled to arrive in dramatic fashion on thursday february 18th. Rather than conducting a breaking maneuver to slow down and enter mars orbit, the perseverance spacecraft will autonomously conduct the entry descent and landing edl procedure, essentially going from traveling several thousand miles an hour to descending slowly under a parachute canopy to softly land. In mere minutes. The spacecraft housed in a protective aeroshell with its robust heat shield, facing the planet’s surface, will burst into mars atmosphere traveling nearly 12 500 miles per hour, 20 000 kilometers per hour once through possebriance, will ditch its heat shield and autonomously begin scanning the martine terrain to Determine its relative location and make adjustments to find an optimal landing spot, then a power descent module will deploy transporting the rover, the rest of the way down slowing to less than two miles per hour, three kilometers per hour.

Finally, the descent module will hover and deploy a complex harness system, lowering perseverance and its stowaway, the ingenuity helicopter to the martian surface for touchdown after seven months of interplanetary travel, it all comes down to the final seven minutes the length of time. The edl process is expected to take all spacecraft controllers back on earth can do, is watch and wait for that final telemetry reading, indicating that perseverance has successfully touched down. That is why this process has earned the nickname seven minutes of terror, beginning around 11 15 a.m. Pacific standard time, 1915 coordinated universal time on thursday february 18, nasa will provide live coverage of perseverance’s landing attempt. The agency will carry the coverage on nasa tv and its website in a rare surprise, for starlink launches the spacex falcon 9 booster has failed to successfully land after kicking off the first of two starlink missions planned in a 25 hour period, some nine minutes after liftoff Falcon 9 booster b 1059 suffered an unknown failure that cut short, its sixth landing attempt, a second or two after landing burn, with no sign of a sustained burn. The booster most likely impacted the ocean at supersonic or high subsonic speeds, unfortunately, ending a record streak of 24 consecutively, successful falcon landings. Thankfully falcon 91059 had already supported five orbital class launches since its december 2019. Debut and as always, booster recovery is always a secondary objective. For spacex launches the primary objective deploying another batch of 60 starlink satellites is on its way to completion as falcon 9’s upper stage.