Perseverance rover successfully lands on Mars, a key step in NASA's search for signs of life

Written by on February 18, 2021

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After a sequence of dramatic maneuvers, NASA’s Perseverance rover efficiently landed on Mars on Thursday, Feb. 18, 2021. The scientific rover traveled to the pink planet over a 300 million-mile journey after liftoff from Cape Canaveral in Florida in July 2020. Florida At the moment

NASA’s latest robotic explorer has landed safely on Mars after a virtually 300-million-mile journey that started on a Florida launch pad.

The company’s Perseverance rover touched down on the Purple Planet at 3:55 p.m. EST  Thursday, bringing an finish to the “seven minutes of terror” that noticed a fiery atmospheric entry and parachute-assisted descent. The rover’s touchdown mechanism then fired eight retrorockets to decelerate and information it to a correct touchdown spot earlier than utilizing nylon cords to decrease it onto the floor.

“Landing confirmed! Perseverance is safely on the floor of Mars, prepared to start looking for the indicators of previous life,” exclaimed NASA engineer Swati Mohan.

All informed, the distinctive touchdown maneuver efficiently decelerated Perseverance from hundreds of miles an hour to only 1.7 mph at landing. And due to an 11-minute delay in transmissions from Earth to Mars, the rover did all of it by itself – no human enter was doable.

Mission managers at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in California rapidly obtained knowledge from Mars satellites and the rover itself confirming an excellent landing, together with the primary photographs from Perseverance: scenes of a desolate, dusty panorama that appears harmful to people however stuffed with potential for this scientist-explorer.

“We bought it. We’re there,” JPL Chief Engineer Rob Manning, who has labored on Mars landings for many years, stated after touchdown. “That is so thrilling and the staff is beside themselves. That is so surreal. A lot has been using on this.”

Simply minutes after the touchdown, Perseverance continued sending photographs from its hazard-detecting navigational cameras.

Manning additionally confirmed groups knew precisely the place the rover landed effectively forward of schedule.

“This can be a signal that NASA works,” Manning stated. “Once we put our arms collectively and our arms collectively and our brains collectively, we will succeed. That is what NASA does and that is what we will do as a rustic.”

The Purple Planet’s newcomer now finds itself in Jezero Crater, a area of Mars as soon as believed to harbor an enormous lake fed by rivers of running water. The regolith and rocks right here can be prime targets for Perseverance’s suite of devices designed to hunt for previous or current indicators of life.

Live video was made doable by NASA throughout Perseverance’s strategy, entry, descent, and touchdown.

“Perseverance is our robotic astrobiologist, and it will likely be the primary rover NASA has despatched to Mars with the specific purpose of looking for indicators of historic life,” stated Thomas Zurbuchen, affiliate administrator of NASA’s Science Mission Directorate.

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Although Perseverance is not the primary rover on Mars – the U.S. and different international locations have been concentrating on the Purple Planet for many years – it is probably the most superior and quickest, and it’ll probably survive longer than its predecessors on this harsh, dusty surroundings.

Unlike older rovers that relied on solar energy, for instance, Perseverance runs on nuclear energy. That is particularly necessary on a planet the place huge, international mud storms can render photo voltaic panels ineffective.

“It is the most important and greatest rover that we have ever despatched to Mars,” stated NASA’s Director of the Jet Propulsion Laboratory Mike Watkins. “It will possibly actually do wonderful issues when it comes to its personal scientific exploration of this liveable surroundings at Jezero.”

NASA expects Perseverance’s floor mission to final about one Martian 12 months, or two Earth years.

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NASA’s Mars Perseverance rover is on the cusp of touchdown on the Purple Planet after a seven-month journey. This is what occurs subsequent. USA TODAY

The two,200-pound rover, almost an identical although barely bigger than its 2012 Curiosity predecessor, has a number of suites of onboard devices that can be used to search out, analyze, and retailer rock samples. A drill on the top of its “arm” is designed to seize core samples, whereas programs that use X-rays and ultraviolet spectrometers can conduct scientific investigations proper there on the floor.

There’s some forward-thinking, too: Perseverance cannot solely retailer its core samples in tubes and put these in its “physique,” however it might later take away and scatter them across the floor of Jezero Crater for a yet-to-be-scheduled pattern return mission. Although Perseverance isn’t any slouch with its onboard devices, scientists hope to make use of their very own instruments and tools on samples obtained straight from Mars.

Manasvi Lingam, a professor of astrobiology, aerospace, physics and house sciences at Florida Tech, stated bringing samples again to Earth has two benefits for scientists: the breadth and variety of devices accessible on Earth vastly outclass what’s accessible on Perseverance; and regardless of technological advances, having a human eye taking a look at samples remains to be the popular technique.

“Any signal of life will after all be one of the crucial momentous discoveries in the whole historical past of humanity,” Lingam stated. “Even whether it is extinct life, simply understanding that there was one thing out there may be definitely Nobel Prize-level.”

Searching for the first-ever flight on one other planet

Nicknamed “Percy” by her Jet Propulsion Laboratory mission managers, NASA’s newest rover is not alone in Jezero Crater. A small, 4-pound helicopter named Ingenuity hitched a experience all the way down to the floor on the rover’s “stomach.”

Ingenuity’s mission is easy and unrelated to the bigger science targets: conduct the first-ever flight on one other world. To perform this in an environment simply 1% as dense as Earth’s, NASA needed to construct a small car with massive carbon fiber blades and make it gentle sufficient to elevate off.

Utilizing two cameras, the small helicopter will try the primary take a look at flights over a yet-to-be-determined 30-day interval. Ingenuity may supply robotic and human explorers of the longer term a vital high-level view of the planet.

Perseverance started its journey to Mars in July 2020 on a United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket, which vaulted the payload on a sophisticated trajectory from Cape Canaveral Area Pressure Station in Florida.

“We or our heritage rockets have executed each U.S. mission to Mars, so it is one thing that is actually particular to us,” Tory Bruno, CEO of ULA, informed Florida At the moment, a part of the USA TODAY Community. “We’re actually excited and honored to be trusted with a mission like this to Mars.”

Bruno stated all missions are necessary, however science-focused ones like Perseverance have a particular place in his firm, which is targeted on its next-generation Vulcan Centaur rocket for flights of every type.

“The missions we launch are at all times necessary,” Bruno stated. “That is some group of individuals’s life’s work. The analysis they’ve executed main as much as this and the work on the spacecraft itself is a profession on their own.”

“In the event you lose that spacecraft or you do not ship it the best way it must be delivered to ensure that it to do its mission, generally there is no recovering from that. Their complete profession culminated on this mission and so they haven’t got a second profession to do one other one,” Bruno stated.

“We take that very, very significantly.”

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Contributing: Jay Cannon, USA TODAY

Observe reporter Emre Kelly on Twitter: @EmreKelly

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