Perseverance rover makes Mars touchdown after 7 months | Daily News

Perseverance rover makes Mars touchdown after 7 months

NASA's Perseverance rover touched down on Mars on Thursday.
NASA's Perseverance rover touched down on Mars on Thursday.

US: After seven months in space, NASA's Perseverance rover overcame a tense landing phase with a series of perfectly executed maneuvers to gently float down to the Martian soil Thursday and embark on its mission to search for signs of past life.

"Touchdown confirmed," said operations lead Swati Mohan as mission control at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena erupted in cheers.

The autonomously guided procedure was in fact completed more than 11 minutes earlier, the length of time it took for radio signals to return to Earth.

Shortly after landing, the rover sent back its first black-and-white images, revealing a rocky field at the landing site in the Jezero Crater, just north of the Red Planet's equator.

This NASA photo shows the first images from NASA’s Perseverance rover as it landed on the surface of Mars on Thursday. - AFP

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.

US President Joe Biden hailed the "historic" event.

"Today proved once again that with the power of science and American ingenuity, nothing is beyond the realm of possibility," he tweeted.

During a press call, NASA Associate Administrator Thomas Zurbuchen theatrically tore up the landing phase's contingency plan, to emphasize how well things had gone, and admitted he violated Covid protocol by hugging people because of the emotions of the moment.

Over the coming years, Perseverance will attempt to collect 30 rock and soil samples in sealed tubes, to be eventually sent back to Earth sometime in the 2030s for lab analysis.

About the size of an SUV, the craft weighs a ton, is equipped with a seven foot- (two meter-) long robotic arm, has 19 cameras, two microphones and a suite of cutting-edge instruments to assist in its scientific goals.

The spacecraft carrying Perseverance careened into the Martian atmosphere at 12,500 miles (20,000 kilometers) per hour, protected by its heat shield, then deployed a supersonic parachute the size of a Little League field, before firing up an eight-engined jetpack. Finally, it lowered the rover carefully to the ground on a set of cables.

Scientists believe that around 3.5 billion years ago the crater was home to a river that flowed into a deep lake, depositing sediment in a fan-shaped delta.

Perseverance ended up landing about two kilometers (a mile) southeast of the delta, NASA scientist Ken Farley said, in a geologically significant area.

Mars was warmer and wetter in its distant past, and while previous exploration has determined the planet was habitable, Perseverance is tasked with determining whether it was actually inhabited.

The rover is only the fifth ever to set its wheels down on Mars.

The feat was first accomplished in 1997, and all of them have been American.


Members of NASA’s Perseverance rover team at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California react in mission control after receiving confirmation that the spacecraft successfully touched down on Mars on Thursday. - AFP