Your family guide to Mars-watching

Celebrate the upcoming Perseverance rover landing by exploring the red planet from your backyard.

An eight-month journey across hundreds of millions of miles of deep space is about to come to an end for NASA’s Perseverance rover. If the robotic rover survives what mission engineers call the “seven minutes of terror” as it plunges through the Martian atmosphere, Perseverance will broadcast radio signals on February 18 around 3:30 p.m. EST that it has landed on Mars.

For the next two years, the rover’s new home will be at the bottom of a city-size Martian crater called Jezero, once filled with water. Equipped with a suite of scientific instruments, the six-wheeled laboratory will search for signs that life may have once existed on Mars and collect samples for a future spacecraft to return to Earth. The rover will also test a tiny drone helicopter named Ingenuity, the first human-built aircraft to fly on an alien world. (Learn more about NASA’s Perseverance rover at Nat Geo Kids.)

That’s when the real fun begins for NASA scientists. But Earthling families can also explore the mysterious red planet—just by looking up.

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