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Seven minutes of harrowing descent to the Red Planet will occur on February 18th when NASA’s Perseverance rover — a robotic “scientist” weighing 2,260 pounds–will parachute through the tenuous Martian air, marking a new era in red planet exploration. Once at the top of the Red Planet’s atmosphere, a science-fiction movie descent begins as it drops through temperatures equivalent to the surface of the Sun, along with a supersonic parachute inflation, and the first ever autonomous guided landing on Mars landing the biggest, heaviest, cleanest, and most sophisticated six-wheeled robotic geologist ever launched into space north of the Martian equator.

The rover will touch down at the ancient Jezero Crater, a 28 mile-wide impact crater (image below) that the site of home to the remains of an ancient river delta where researchers have found deposits of hydrated silica, a mineral that’s especially good at preserving microfossils and other signs of past life.

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