It’ll be a show of galactic proportions.
Thanks to the likes of the Curiosity rover and the InSight lander, NASA has obtained plenty of audiovisual data about the planet Mars. It’s big, it’s red, it’s rocky, it’s sandy. But while all this information is plenty compelling, there’s one piece of data we’re conspicuously lacking in: video footage of an actual Mars landing. Most of a lander’s processes are automated, and they don’t start sending visual feedback until their missions are already well underway. In a couple of weeks, that’s gonna change.
On February 18, NASA’s newest Mars rover, Perseverance, is scheduled to touch down on Martian soil. Normally, we’d just have to take the system’s word for it that the entry, descent, and landing (or EDL) procedures went as planned. This time around, though, both Perseverance itself and its landing capsule is equipped with enough cameras and microphones to make an audiovisual enthusiast drool. I’m talking cameras on the front, cameras on the back, cameras on the bottom, all poised to capture every last tense moment of the rover’s landing on Martian soil. All of this equipment will provide quite possibly the most detailed picture of a Mars landing ever witnessed by human eyes.
“We’re going to be able to watch ourselves land for the first time on another planet,” Lori Glaze, who heads the Planetary Science Division of NASA’s Science Mission Directorate, said last month.
15 days from my landing on Mars! Can't wait to get there and get to work. Where will you watch touchdown?
1️⃣ Record your experience watching landing
2️⃣ Share pictures and video
3️⃣ Tag using #CountdownToMars
— NASA's Perseverance Mars Rover (@NASAPersevere) February 3, 2021
The entire process is slated to be livestreamed on NASA’s website. The landing procedure will probably only take around seven minutes, but for the folks at NASA, it’ll be some of the tensest seven minutes ever as they cross their fingers that all of the lander’s systems work the way they’re supposed to. If everything goes as planned, Mission Control is predicting some serious celebrations.
“I don’t think that Covid is going to be able to stop us from jumping up and down and fist bumping,” said Deputy Project Manager Matt Wallace. “You’re going to see a lot of happy people no matter what, once we get this thing on the surface safely.”