NASA's Perseverance Rover Is Landing On Mars Tonight
The rover will conclude its seven-month, 470-million-km journey from Earth this evening, due to make contact with the atmosphere at 8.48pm GMT before its wheels hit the surface at 8.55pm.
According to NASA, the car-sized rover will be 'paving the way for human exploration beyond the Moon', and is focused on astrobiology - or the study of life - throughout the universe.
It is also joined by a helicopter named Ingenuity, which will undertake the first ever flight on another planet
NASA said: "Perseverance is tasked with searching for tell-tale signs that microbial life may have lived on Mars billions of years ago.
"It will collect rock core samples in metal tubes, and future missions would return these samples to Earth for deeper study."
The Perseverance will land at the Jezero Crater, where scientists believe they might find the evidence they're after.
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Tomorrow I arrive at Jezero Crater, a dry lakebed on Mars. I'll chart a path along its ancient shoreline, to see if it's like similar places on Earth. I'm looking for rocks that tell a story of past microbial life. https://t.co/5RCEWdNc9b #CountdownToMars pic.twitter.com/NsNJjXHPbu
- NASA's Perseverance Mars Rover (@NASAPersevere) February 17, 2021
Ken Williford, Deputy Project Scientist for the Mars 2020 Perseverance Rover Mission at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, said: "We expect the best places to look for biosignatures would be in Jezero's lakebed or in shoreline sediments that could be encrusted with carbonate minerals, which are especially good at preserving certain kinds of fossilized life on Earth.
"But as we search for evidence of ancient microbes on an ancient alien world, it's important to keep an open mind."
But before the rover is able to start sifting and digging around Mars' surface, there's the seven-minute landing process - which scientists say will be a tough ride.
According to the BBC, Matt Wallace, NASA's Deputy Project Manager for Perseverance, said: "Before we can get that surface mission going, we have to land on Mars and that is always a challenging feat.
"This is one of the most difficult manoeuvres we do in the space business. Almost 50 percent of the spacecraft sent to the surface of Mars have failed, so we know we have our work cut out to get down safely at Jezero."
Featured Image Credit: PA
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