The rover, launched this summer as the star of the agency's Mars 2020 mission, will touch down in Jezero Crater, an ancient delta on the Martian surface, on Thursday (Feb. 18). Perseverance will discover the Martian landscape and perform a variety of experimental studies, or "Percy" for short.
"Perseverance is operating perfectly," Jennifer Trosper, Perseverance deputy project manager at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in California, said during a news conference held virtually today about the rover's status two days ahead of the landing. "The spacecraft is focused, the team is focused and we are all ready to go for landing," Trosper added.
The teams at NASA gave the spacecraft the command series for the entry, descent and landing sequence, known as EDL, before the landing, Trosper said, beginning the touchdown timeline.
The spacecraft will join Thursday's official EDL process. EDL, the shortest but most intense phase of the whole mission, is often referred to as the "seven minutes of terror." The spacecraft needs to slow down from about 12,500 miles per hour (20,000 kilometers per hour) to zero miles per hour (0 km per hour) to land on the earth during this seven-minute phase.
"I'm feeling great," Trosper, who has worked on all five of NASA's rover missions, told Space.com about the upcoming landing. "There are no guarantees in this business … we always talk about what Mars might throw at us this time. And it's never the thing it threw the last time and so we have to be prepared for that.
"But," she added, "the team is doing a great job, the spacecraft is solid. I lead the test program, I feel very confident that it will do the things we do. Again, no guarantees, but I'm feeling great."
"Whether it's on the Red Planet, or here at home on our blue marble, science can bring us together and create solutions to challenges that seem impossible," Thomas Zurbuchen, NASA associate administrator for science, said during the news conference.
The rover is getting close to the Red Planet, about 125 million miles (201 million kilometers) away from Earth and less than 370,000 miles (595,000 km) from Mars, Trosper said.