NASA's newest Mars rover is set to land on Mars this Thursday after more than half a year in space.
The Perseverance rover was launched on July 30, 2020, and has traveled 127 million miles. It will take approximately seven minutes for the vehicle to descend to the Martian surface, where it is set to explore an ancient lake site called Jezero Crater. The mission cost $2.7 billion.
The landing will be completely computer piloted and involve a supersonic parachute and a drone-like "sky crane" that will hover over the surface while slowly lowering the rover to the surface.
If successful, Perseverance will be NASA's largest and most sophisticated drone to explore the Red Planet.
One of the rover's primary objectives over the next two years will be to drill into the soil to look for signs of past bacterial life and collect dirt samples for an eventual return to Earth.
Another goal will be to extract oxygen from the high concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. Oxygen could be used to create breathable air for astronauts or be combined with methane and hydrogen to create rocket fuel. Such technology could potentially be used to remotely make fuel that astronauts need to explore and return home, instead of carrying the fuel with them from Earth.
The rover has an integrated drone called "Ingenuity" that will also fly out within a 300 yard radius of the rover to test powered flight on another planet and scout for landing sites for future manned missions.