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NASA video shows Perseverance rover's planned 'terror' landing on Mars

Dec. 23 (UPI) -- NASA has shown what it will look like when its Perseverance rover touches down on Mars, a challenging sequence that the agency describes as "7 minutes of terror."

The Perseverance rover was launched in the summer and is scheduled to arrive on Mars in February.

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Once it reaches Mars' atmosphere on its way to Jezero Crater, it must slow down from its speed of 12,000 mph in a span of 7 minutes, touch down on the rust-colored surface and disconnect from the main spacecraft.

Tuesday, NASA released an animation that showed the complex process.

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"The more we know about Mars, the better prepared we are to send humans there and get them home safely," Ken Williford, deputy project scientist for the Mars 2020 mission, told UPI in July.

"We wish to understand how Mars formed, how it evolved as a planetary system and what all of that can tell us about our own planet, our solar system and our place in the universe."

Since it takes about 11 minutes for a radio signal to reach Earth, NASA engineers won't know immediately whether the rover landed safely.

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The landing sequence, however, won't be entirely new for NASA. The Curiosity rover landed in similar fashion on Mars eight years ago and NASA hopes that improved navigation tools will make things easier.

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Once on Mars, NASA says Perseverance will study the surface for past microbial life, collect and store samples of selected rock and soil and prepare for future human missions. It's one of the most advanced machines ever sent to Mars and has a drill to collect samples that could one day make the long trek back to Earth.

"Compared to Mars, Earth is filled with evidence of the life that covers our planet," Ken Farley, the Mars 2020 project scientist at the California Institute of Technology, said in a statement.

"We needed to remove those signs so thoroughly that any scant evidence remaining can be confidently detected and differentiated when these first samples are returned."

The rover will carry state-of-the-art onboard cameras and microphones that will record the landing for NASA to study -- if all goes well.

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