UPDATE- It landed and sent back photos. Safe and Sound.

The latest NASA rover is scheduled to land on Mars this afternoon. The Perseverance rover has been moving toward the planet for almost seven months and will enter the planet's atmosphere at about 1:30 p.m. MST, at a speed of 12,000 miles per hour.

The Martian atmosphere will slow the spacecraft a bit and the heat shield will protect the lander. Then, a high-velocity parachute will deploy and slow it down even more. The heat shield is ejected and the craft's radar will look around for the landing site. The parachute is tossed away and the four retro rockets will fire (photo above) for a slow descent (to about 2 miles per hour). The rover is then lowered by a cable to the Martian surface. Once it touches down, the cable is detached and the rockets fly away. The rover than begins to settle in.

It all happens in about seven minutes. And Perseverance has to do it without any immediate help from NASA. It takes about 11 minutes to send a signal from Earth to Mars (and vice-versa), so scientists won't know if everything worked until after the whole landing sequence is over. NASA has had pretty good luck with all types of landing attempts, including a weird "bouncing ball" landing a few years ago. Even so, lots of nervous scientists are awaiting the landing today. Talk about "working from home"!

You can watch what the scientists see, live, on NASA's website on Youtube or NASA's TV channel. And, once this lander powers up, it has 24 cameras and even a microphone that will allow us to hear what it sounds like on the Martian surface. But one of the really interesting parts of the mission is a drone-type helicopter that will be doing some low level flights.

By the way, NASA and Montana have very strong ties. NASA grants have been awarded regularly to Montana State University, Salish-Kootenai company and UM. Mars is also connected to Montana. You can actually see it in our dark skies (when the snowclouds go away!).

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