NASA’s Perseverance Rover Makes Historic Landing On Mars
After a 203-day journey traversing 293 million miles (472 million kilometres), the largest, most advanced rover NASA has sent to another world streaked through the orange Martian sky and touched down on Mars, the planet we lovingly call the ‘Red Planet’. This marks an ambitious first step in the effort to collect Mars samples and return them to Earth.
Loud cheers were heard in NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) mission control room as the Perseverance rover’s touchdown was confirmed by operations lead Swati Mohan. Shortly after, US President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris took to their respective Twitter accounts to congratulate the team at NASA for successfully making the historic landing.
According to NASA, the robotic rover has been equipped with seven primary science instruments, the most cameras ever sent to Mars, and its exquisitely complex sample caching system – the first of its kind sent into space. Perseverance will scour the Jezero region for fossilised remains of ancient microscopic Martian life, taking samples along the way to be eventually sent back to Earth sometime in the 2030s for lab analysis.
“This landing is one of those pivotal moments for NASA, the United States, and space exploration globally—when we know we are on the cusp of discovery and sharpening our pencils, so to speak, to rewrite the textbooks,” acting NASA administrator Steve Jurczyk said.
“The Mars 2020 Perseverance mission embodies our nation’s spirit of persevering even in the most challenging of situations, inspiring, and advancing science and exploration. The mission itself personifies the human ideal of persevering toward the future and will help us prepare for human exploration of the Red Planet," he added.
Already, Perseverance, only the fifth ever to set its wheels down on Mars, has sent back its first black-and-white image(s) from the surface of the Red Planet. The image(s) come from Perseverance’s Hazard Avoidance Cameras (Hazcams), which help with driving. More images, video of the descent, and perhaps the first sounds of Mars ever recorded by microphones are expected in the coming hours as the rover relays data to overhead satellites.
Aside from looking for signs of past microbial life, cache rock and soil samples, the NASA Perseverance rover's mission will also help prepare for future human exploration. As NASA has profoundly put it: “The #CountdownToMars may be complete, but the mission is just beginning.” So watch this space.
I’m standing on the shoulders of giants. Thank you for paving the way for me with your curiosity and insight about Mars. Now it’s my turn to persevere, and I’m ready. #CountdownToMars pic.twitter.com/3zUzpLIYl0— NASA's Perseverance Mars Rover (@NASAPersevere) February 17, 2021