Space

We Asked a NASA Scientist: What’s It Like Landing on Mars? [Video]

Animation of NASA’s Mars Perseverance Rover landing on Mars. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

What’s it like landing on Mars? Tough! But every time we land, we learn more. When NASA’s Perseverance Mars rover descended toward the Red Planet, it was decked out with temperature and pressure sensors that collected critical data about entry and landing conditions. NASA engineer Alex Scammell tells us more.

It’s an intense, challenging, and exciting series of events. NASA’s most recent Mars rover, Perseverance, slowed from nearly 13,000 miles an hour to a soft landing on the surface in about seven minutes. It involved a parachute, thrusters, and even a sky crane.

But the majority of that deceleration was caused by the Martian atmosphere creating drag on the rover’s heat shield and that heat shield went through a lot to keep the spacecraft safe.

Understanding what the heat shield experienced during entry can help us design more efficient heat shields for future missions. That’s why we installed MEDLI2, a set of temperature and pressure sensors spread across the inside of the heat shield that measured the extreme conditions experienced during Perseverance’s descent to Mars.

With the data collected from MEDLI2, we’ll be able to improve sizing predictions for future heat shields and save spacecraft mass for scientific instruments, supplies and even humans.

So, what’s it like landing on mars? It’s hot and very challenging and that’s why we’re working hard to make the process better for future missions.

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