At a time when the world is faced with a gruelling pandemic, we could all use a little Perseverance.

That’s the name of the latest rover that NASA has tasked to explore the surface of Mars, the fourth planet from the sun.

At 12:55 p.m. PST, Perseverance will attempt its landing, and you can watch the whole thing live through the video below.

The rover is tasked with seeking out signs of ancient microbial life, drilling into the planet’s rock and soil to collect samples.

Those samples will then be retrieved by a future mission and sent back to Earth for detailed analysis.

The area in which Perseverance is set to land, Jezero Crater, has high potential to find these signs.

It is theorized that a river flowed through the crater some 3.5 billion years ago, ending in a delta that could contain sediment deposits.

Perseverance will also make history with a drone equipped to its belly, named Ingenuity. If and when the helicopter drone takes flight, it will mark the first-ever powered flight on Mars.

 

NASA Mars Concept
(Concept illustration showing Perseverance on Mars | NASA/JPL-Caltech)

It’s going to be a bumpy ride, though.

NASA says the landing is in the most challenging terrain ever targeted by the agency, with steep cliffs, sand dunes, boulder fields, and smaller impact craters.

On top of that, the spacecraft will be travelling at about 19,500 km/h as it enters the atmosphere, slowing to a stop on the surface just seven minutes later.

NASA refers to that tense time as the “seven minutes of terror,” when scientists and engineers quietly pray and hold their breath.

NASA Perseverance Heating
(concept image showing Perseverance’s landing craft as it heats up in Mars’ atmosphere | NASA/JPL-Caltech)

If all goes well though at 12:55 p.m. PST on February 18 2021, Perseverance’s mission will begin, paving the way for future missions, including manned missions, to Mars.

The chart below shows the precise timeline of the launch, including times for Victoria (PST).

Landing Timetable
(NASA)

 

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