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NASA shows how to pack a Mars rover for its one-way trip

Don't forget the Mars helicopter.

perseverancepacked
The Perseverance rover is looking cozy with the descent stage stacked on top and a helicopter on its belly.
NASA/JPL-Caltech

Even if you think you're a ninja for fitting a week's worth of clothes into a carry-on bag, you could still learn some things from NASA. The space agency has been packing up the Perseverance rover for its upcoming epic trip to Mars.

NASA shared updates on the "vehicle stacking" packing process on Thursday. This is all about marrying important landing systems with the actual rover. 

The bowl-shaped back shell will keep the Perseverance rover protected as it enters the Martian atmosphere.

NASA/JPL-Caltech

The rover is now one with its rocket-equipped descent stage and protective back shell, two critical components needed to lower the vehicle safely to the surface of the red planet. The back shell also contains the parachute that will help give Perseverance a gentle landing.

NASA posted an image showing the underside of the rover with the descent stage on top. The wheels are protected with a material that will be removed prior to launch. 

The experimental Mars helicopter, now named Ingenuity, is safely tucked into the rover's belly. Ingenuity will attempt the first powered flight on another planet. 

The stacking process has been underway since April 23. "Attaching the rover to the descent stage is a major milestone for the team because these are the first spacecraft components to come together for launch, and they will be the last to separate when we reach Mars," said Perseverance rover assembly, test, and launch operations manager David Gruel in a release.

NASA's update means Perseverance is still on track to launch as early as July with a scheduled arrival at Mars in February 2021. The rover will look for evidence that Mars may have once harbored microbial life. NASA's careful packing job will make sure it gets there safely.