In a statement made on Tuesday, NASA said the rover has 166 million miles left to go until it touches down on Mars’ Jezero Crater on Feb. 18, 2021, at 3:43 p.m. EST. If the landing is successful, NASA’s JPL will receive confirmation about 11.5 minutes later.
“While we call the six-and-a-half-month trip from Earth to Mars ‘cruise,’ I assure you there is not much croquet going on at the lido deck,” said project manager John McNamee in the statement. “Between checking out the spacecraft, and planning and simulating our landing and surface operations, the entire team is on the clock, working toward our exploration of Jezero Crater.”
This illustration of the Mars 2020 spacecraft in interplanetary space was generated using imagery from NASA’s Eyes on the Solar System. The image is from the mission’s midway point between Earth and Mars. (NASA/JPL-Caltech)
There were a number of achievements made on the rover this week, including confirming the system used to lower it on Mars is in “good working order” (Nov. 9); keeping up-to-date on the PIXL and SHERLOC instruments (Nov. 10); and analyzing the Lander Vision System, performed Wednesday.
The next milestone for the mission will start on Nov. 16, when a five-day simulation of surface operations, including driving and collecting samples, is performed.
After that, another update will come on Dec. 18, when “the team plans to perform a trajectory correction maneuver, using the cruise stage’s eight thrusters to refine the spacecraft’s path toward Mars,” NASA added.
NASA has posted a real-time look to see where the rover is at any time.
The $2.1 billion rover will also come with the first helicopter, known as Ingenuity, that will let researchers understand the viability and potential of heavier-than-air vehicles on the Red Planet. In August, NASA powered up the six lithium-ion batteries on Ingenuity.
The mission’s duration on the Red Planet’s surface is at least one Martian year or about 687 days. While there, it will perform a number of tasks, including looking for fossilized evidence of extraterrestrial life.
NASA’s long-term goal is to send a manned mission to Mars in the 2030s.
Fox News’ James Rogers contributed to this story.