In this illustration of its descent to Mars, the spacecraft carrying NASA’s Perseverance rover slows down using the drag generated by its motion in the Martian atmosphere. Hundreds of critical events must execute precisely on time for the rover to land on Mars safely. Entry, descent, and landing, or “EDL,” begins when the spacecraft reaches the top of the Martian atmosphere, traveling nearly 12,500 mph. The cruise stage separates about 10 minutes before entering into the atmosphere, leaving the aeroshell, which encloses the rover and descent stage, to make the trip to the surface. Image courtesy of NASA

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