Are we there yet? NASA’s Perseverance rover will reach Mars in just 100 days at 59,000MPH

The NASA rover, which launched from Florida on July 30 this year, is cruising through space at a leisurely 59,000mph. On October 27, NASA announced the alien-hunting rover had hit the halfway point on its epic voyage to Mars. And as of 9pm GMT on November 10, the rover is now less than 100 days out from its planned rendezvous.

Perseverance is scheduled to reach Mars by February 18, 2021, targetting a landing spot in a formation known as Jezero Crater.

Jezero is believed to have been filled with water billions of years ago, making it the perfect spot for Perseverance to search for evidence of life – past and present.

However, before this happens, the rover has another 166 million (268 million km) of space travel ahead of it.

Project Manager John McNamee of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory said: “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.

“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.”

Perseverance is expected to touch down at about 8.43pm GMT (3.43pm EST) on February 18.

However, due to the astounding distances involved, it will take more than 11 minutes before NASA receives a confirmation from the rover.

When the Curiosity rover landed on Mars on August 6, 2012, the rover plummeted to the ground in a fully-orchestrated manoeuvre.

The rover, shrouded in a protective heat shield and outer shell at first decelerated using a parachute.

Then, more than 3,000ft above the planet’s surface, the heat shield and shell deployed, exposing the rover and its sky crane – a powered descent stage.

The sky crane then fired its engines, safely guiding the rover to the ground and winching it down before flying off to a safe distance.

The same procedure will play out on February 18 when Perseverance enters Mars’s atmosphere.

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NASA said: “Landing on Mars is challenging. Only about 40 percent of the missions ever sent to Mars – by any space agency – have been successful.

“Perseverance is only the fifth rover to attempt landing on Mars.”

The mission’s main goal is to explore the Red Planet for signs of habitability, both past and present.

The six-wheeled rover will collect rock samples from Jezero, which NASA and the European Space Agency (ESA) will attempt to retrieve for return to Earth.

Perseverance will shed new light on Mars’s ancient climate and geology, and pave the way for future human exploration.

Joining the rover is a small helicopter-like drone dubbed Ingenuity.

Ingenuity will attempt the first-ever powered flight on an alien world.

Havard Grip, Ingenuity’s chief pilot at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, said: “The Wright Brothers showed that powered flight in Earth’s atmosphere was possible, using an experimental aircraft.

“With Ingenuity, we’re trying to do the same for Mars.”

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