The long deep-space journey of NASA’s next Mars rover is nearly over. The car-size Perseverance rover, which launched on July 30 of last year, is scheduled to land inside the 28-mile-wide (45 kilometers) Jezero Crater on Feb. 18.
“I am thrilled to be here today as our countdown to Mars winds down from months to just weeks,” Lori Glaze, director of NASA’s Planetary Science Division, said during a news conference on Wednesday (Jan. 27). “Perseverance is closing in on the Red Planet, and our team is preparing for her to touch down in Jezero Crater.”
Perseverance is the centerpiece of NASA’s $2.7 billion Mars 2020 mission, which will break new ground in Red Planet exploration. For example, the rover will hunt for evidence of ancient Mars life on the floor of Jezero, which hosted a lake and a river delta billions of years ago. No previous Red Planet robot has done such work (though NASA’s twin Viking landers, which touched down in 1976, did look for signs of extant organisms).