ars is not a friendly place when it comes to landing spacecraft. On Thursday, Nasa’s Perseverance rover will go through “seven minutes of terror” as it attempts to land on the Martian surface at 8.45pm UK time as part of a 2.7 billion US dollar (£1.9 billion) mission.

When NASA’s Mars 2020 rover lands on the Red Planet on Feb. 18, 2021, it will seek signs of past microbial life and characterize the planet’s climate and geology. It is the first rover ever to carry a drill for coring samples from Martian rocks and soil. Jezero Crater, where the rover is scheduled to land, is a 28-mile-wide (45-kilometer-wide) basin located in the Martian northern hemisphere. Sometime around 3.5 billion years ago, a river there flowed into a body of water about the size of Lake Tahoe, depositing sediments in a fan shape known as a delta. The Perseverance science team believes this ancient river delta and lake deposits could have collected and preserved organic molecules and other potential signs of microbial life.

Perseverance will also be able to use some instruments to gather science data from a distance: Mastcam-Z’s cameras can zoom in on rock textures from as far away as a soccer field, while SuperCam will use a laser to zap rock and regolith (broken rock and dust) to study their composition in the resulting vapor. RIMFAX (short for Radar Imager for Mars’ Subsurface Experiment) will use radar waves to probe geological features underground.

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