After nearly 300 million miles (470 million km), NASA’s Perseverance rover completes its journey to Mars on February 18, 2021. But, to reach the surface of the Red Planet, it has to survive the harrowing final phase known as Entry, Descent, and Landing.
The mission uses technological innovations already demonstrated successfully, especially for entry, descent, and landing (EDL). Like NASA’s Curiosity rover (, the Mars 2020 spacecraft uses a guided entry, descent, and landing system. The landing system on Mars 2020 mission includes a parachute, descent vehicle, and an approach called a “skycrane maneuver” for lowering the rover on a tether to the surface during the final seconds before landing.
This type of landing system provides the ability to land a very large, heavy rover on the surface of Mars in a more precise landing area than was possible before Curiosity’s landing. Mars 2020 takes things one step further. It adds new entry, descent, and landing (EDL) technologies, such as Terrain-Relative Navigation (TRN). This sophisticated navigation system allows the rover to detect and avoid hazardous terrain by diverting around it during its descent through the Martian atmosphere. A microphone allows engineers to analyze entry, descent, and landing. It might also capture sounds of the rover at work, which would provide engineers with clues about the rover’s health and operations, and would be a treat to hear.