seven minutes of terror

NASA’s Mars Rover Perseverance, a robotic astrobiology lab packed inside a space capsule, is set to emit a radio alert as it streaks into the thin Martian atmosphere, hitting the final stretch of its seven-month journey from Earth this week.

Perseverance will already have landed on the Red Planet, hopefully in one piece, by the time that signal reaches mission managers some 127 million miles away at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) near Los Angeles.

JPL engineers affectionately refer to the self-guided descent of the rover spacecraft, set to occur during a white-knuckled interval, as “seven minutes of terror.”

It is expected to take seven minutes to descend from the top of the Martian atmosphere to the planet’s surface in less time than the 11-minute-plus radio transmission to Earth for the six-wheeled rover.

The Head of the JPL descent and landing team Al Chen called it the most critical and most dangerous part of the $2.7 billion (roughly Rs. 19,600 crore) mission.

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