A new Mars rover is expected to touch down on the red planet Thursday night, carrying names of people all around the world including Cyprus, but all the buzz is about a live event in Nicosia and a helicopter called Ingenuity.
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'We will be connecting live with NASA to watch the landing of Perseverance Rover on Mars and discuss the goals of this groundbreaking mission to Mars'
According to Cypriot astronomer George Danos, the road to future exploration on Mars will open up further on Thursday, when a six-wheeled, SUV-sized vehicle named Perseverance will touch down at 10:55pm CY time.
The rover left for Mars back in July 2020 on a 471 million kilometer journey to the red planet, where it will land in the now-dry and dusty 45km-wide Jezero Crater, which shows unmistakable signs of having been filled with liquid water billions of years ago.
But all the buzz is about the Mars Helicopter, known as Ingenuity, according to Danos, president of the Cyprus Space Exploration Organisation.
Like the first powered flight on Earth, Ingenuity's first flight will be short and close to the ground, but it is not scheduled until later the spring. If successful, it will be the first powered flight on another world, with NASA calling it a "technology demonstration."
Seven minutes of terror entry
But before Ingenuity and other cool gadgets get to Mars to scour an ancient lake bed for signs of life, Perseverance will first need to go through a nail-biting "seven minutes of terror" entry, descent and landing, a sequence that must be completed flawlessly and without intervention from Earth-bound engineers.
It takes 11 minutes for signals to reach NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Southern California, where the mission is managed. That means by the time engineers get a message from the spacecraft that EDL has begun, Perseverance will already be on the ground — intact, they hope.
But space enthusiasts in Cyprus can still get excited about the project in real time, as the US Embassy in Nicosia is bringing in Wes Stange, a Science and Technology Officer at the consulate, for live coverage of NASA's exciting Mars 2020 Mission.
“We will be connecting live with NASA to watch the landing of Perseverance Rover on Mars and discuss the goals of this groundbreaking mission to Mars,” the US embassy said on Facebook.
Questions can be sent real-time via Facebook during the event in the live video comment section, where Stange and Danos will take turns in engaging the audience. The event is set to begin promptly at 10pm.
Reports said the names of some 11 million people around the world, including Cyprus, are also traveling to Mars on the mission, with three silicon chips containing the names of actual human beings on earth.
The names were collected after NASA launched its “Send Your Name to Mars” campaign, which is already collecting names for the next flight.