Nearly seven months after its takeoff to Mars, the NASA Perseverance rover is expected to land at the Red Planet’s Jezero Crater on February 18.
If successful, Perseverance will be the fifth NASA rover ever to touch down on Mars after Sojourner, twin rovers Spirit and Opportunity and Curiosity. After landing, Perseverance will spend the coming years scouring for signs of ancient microbial life in a historic mission that will bring back samples from Mars to Earth and prepare the way for future human visitors.
According to NASA, the key science objective of Perseverance’s mission on Mars is astrobiology, including the search for signs of ancient microbial life. The rover will characterize the planet’s geology and past climate, pave the way for human exploration of the Red Planet, and will be the first mission to collect and cache Martian rock and sediment for later return to Earth. Subsequent NASA missions, in cooperation with ESA (European Space Agency), would send spacecraft to Mars to collect these sealed samples from the surface and return them to Earth for in-depth analysis.
The Mars 2020 mission is part of a larger NASA initiative that includes missions to the Moon as a way to prepare for human exploration of the Red Planet. NASA will establish a sustained human presence on and around the Moon through NASA’s Artemis lunar exploration plans.
To celebrate Perseverance’s Red Planet landing, the Empire State Building in New York will light its tower red on Tuesday, Feb. 16, starting at sunset until 2 a.m. the following morning. In addition, the Los Angeles International Airport gateway pylons will glow red from sundown on Wednesday, Feb. 17, through sunrise Friday, Feb. 19. Other sites in the United States recognizing the upcoming landing include select buildings along the Chicago skyline, such as the Adler Planetarium. NASA invites cities around the country and world to participate in “lighting the town red.”
Visit NASA’s entire listing of events here.