NASA announced that its Perseverance rover has successfully landed on the Red Planet's surface. This is the fifth successfully launched US Mars rover. It will continue the geological exploration of its predecessors.
Perseverance's journey to the Red Planet lasted over six months. As part of the Mars 2020 mission, NASA's Perseverance rover and the Ingenuity Mars Helicopter were launched from the launch pad at Cape Canaveral Space Force Station in Florida on a ULA Atlas V rocket on July 30, 2020. The mission marks the first step in an effort to collect the Red Planet’s samples and send them to Earth.
The last kilometers when entering the atmosphere of Mars were the most difficult for Perseverance as, during that time, scientists could only rely on the operation of an automatic system of the rover. Scientists call the most intense seven-minute plunge into the Mars atmosphere the “seven minutes of terror.” This challenging sequence begins as the rover strikes the atmosphere of Mars at a speed of nearly 20,000 kilometers per hour and ends with landing on a narrow target on the planet’s surface.
The mission control at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Southern California confirmed the touchdown on the Red Planet's Jezero Crater at 3:55 PM EST (12:55 PM PST), but it took about 11 minutes to get a radio signal back from Mars to know it happened.
“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,” said acting NASA Administrator Steve Jurczyk. “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.”
Minutes after touching down, the rover beamed back its first image of Mars made with one of its 19 cameras.
After a successful landing, the rover will begin its two-year science investigation of Mars' Jezero Crater to study geology and the past climate of the region as well as look for signs of ancient microbial and micro-organic life on the planet that may have existed 3.8 billion years ago in its rocks and dirt.
Perseverance is the third Mars visitor this year, following the United Arab Emirates' Hope weather satellite and China's Tianwen-1 mission that also successfully reached Martian orbit earlier this month.
All three missions were planned for last summer because the Earth and Mars were in alignment on the same side of the sun, which happens every 26 months.