With its heat shield facing the planet, NASA’s Perseverance rover begins its descent through the Martian atmosphere in this illustration. Hundreds of critical events must execute perfectly and exactly on time for the rover to land on Mars safely on Feb. 18, 2021.
Entry, Descent, and Landing, or “EDL,” begins when the spacecraft reaches the top of the Martian atmosphere, travelling nearly 12,500 mph (20,000 kph).
The aeroshell, which encloses the rover and descent stage, makes the trip to the surface on its own. The vehicle fires small thrusters on the backshell to reorient itself and make sure the heat shield is facing forward as it plunges into the atmosphere.
For more information about the mission, go to: https://mars.nasa.gov/mars2020.