Today, Thursday, February 18, we will experience a historic day: if all goes according to plan, NASA’s ‘Perseverance’ rover, the most advanced of all the vehicles sent to Mars, will land tonight at 9:55 p.m. Local time) in the Jzero crater, where he will try to find signs of past life. Jezero is a basin where scientists believe that an ancient river emptied into a lake and deposited fan-shaped sediments, like the deltas that form on Earth. Scientists argue that the geology of the planet has probably preserved the remains of any life that took hold there billions of years ago. But Jezero is also a dangerous place: it has cliffs, dunes, and rock fields. And just landing on Mars is quite a feat, since about half of the missions have failed. We are, therefore, before a complicated feat.

Even so, NASA they are very optimistic, The data that has reached us so far confirm that everything is going as expected. The ship is ready and the equipment is ready. All the work a decade is going to be put to the test on this landing, “Matt Wallace, deputy director of theirs 2020′ mission, explained at an online press conference this Wednesday. Behind it is a journey of 470 million kilometers and almost seven months long. And the success of the Chinese and Emirati probes, which achieved their objectives of climbing into Martian orbit just a few days ago, marking the beginning of what have been historic days in space exploration. Now, NASA is called to put the icing on the cake to a historic February and the prelude to a whole new science that who knows what new secrets about our cosmic neighbor will reveal to us.

The reports indicate a favorable climate for operations,” explained Al Chen, an entry, descent, and landing engineer at NASA’s JPL. “The skies seem clear, but that does not guarantee us success.” Indeed, it is a complicated maneuver: it will enter the Martian atmosphere at about 20,000 kilometers per hour and, in less than seven minutes, the probe will have to slow down to 2.7 kilometers per hour. And all these exceeding temperatures of 1,300 degrees and the characteristics of a quite unknown world. “It is very difficult to give a specific percentage of probability of success,” Wallace pointed out, “because there are many factors involved and there are many things that we still don’t understand about Mars.

Experiences and pandemics However, ‘Perseverance’ has something that its predecessors did not have: more experience than ever. Everything learned from previous rovers will be used for this new milestone. “No landing on Mars is guaranteed, but we’ve been preparing for a decade to put the wheels of this rover on the surface of Mars and get to work,” said Jennifer Trosper, deputy director of mission projects at JPL. However, the speakers highlighted that there had indeed been an issue that no one had at the beginning. A pandemic. “The Covid-19 crisis has indeed forced us to work in a different way than what we were used to, but the team has made a huge effort and we hope that everything will go perfectly,” Wallace pointed out.

“This is not the end of the mission, it is only the beginning,” said Trosper, who explained that a few hours after landing, if all goes well, the first images would arrive from ‘Perseverance’ in his new home. , where he will try to find remains of the old life. But what if you don’t find anything? The director of the Division of Planetary Sciences of the Science Missions of NASA, Lori Glazer, sentenced: “That does not mean that there are no traces of life in other places on Mars, or even in other planets, so we will have to work harder yet to find them. And, if we confirm this point, the red planet can still give us many clues about the origins of the universe and ourselves . Interesting times are coming, no doubt.