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Touchdown Mars!

NASA's Perseverance rover safely lands on Mars

By Kara Santos Published Feb 19, 2021 12:16 am

Perseverance will really take you places, even to a whole other planet.

After a journey of nearly 300 million miles (470 million kms.), the NASA Perseverance rover safely landed on the planet Mars. 

The spacecraft, which launched in July 2020, ended its 292.5-million mile journey from Earth, the agency confirmed at 3:55 p.m. ET Thursday.

According to the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) team, the rover managed to land itself "flawlessly" on the planet.

"Percy," as the spacecraft is affectionately called at mission control, sent back its first two images of the landing site immediately after touchdown.

The first image shows the rover's shadow on the surface of its landing site of Jezero Crater. The second image taken from one of Perseverance’s Hazard Cameras is partially obscured by a dust cover. 

"Hello, world. My first look at my forever home. #CountdownToMars," NASA posted on Twitter early Friday morning (Feb. 19). "And another look behind me. Welcome to Jezero Crater."

Cheers erupted in the mission control room at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory as controllers confirmed that NASA's Perseverance rover touched down safely on Mars. 

According to NASA, the Perseverance is the largest, heaviest robotic Mars rover NASA has built. With a chassis about 10 feet (3 meters) long, the key objective for Perseverance’s mission on Mars is astrobiology, including the search for signs of ancient microbial life.

The spacecraft's mission is to seek signs of ancient life and collect and cache samples of Martian rock and regolith (broken rock and soil) for possible return to Earth.

The rover will now explore the Jezero Crater, the site of an ancient lake that existed 3.9 billion years ago, and search for microfossils in the rocks and soil there.

Follow up missions will return samples of this site collected by Perseverance to Earth by the 2030s. It will also be recording sound, which will be the first recordings on the Red Planet.

Attached to the Mars 2020 Perseverance rover is an experiment to fly a helicopter, called Ingenuity, on another planet for the first time.

During a post-landing news conference, Thomas Zurbuchen, associate administrator for NASA's Science Mission Directorate, said that the mission was the first step in bringing back vital samples from Mars. 

"Because of today's exciting events, the first pristine samples from carefully documented locations on another planet are another step closer to being returned to Earth," he said.

"We don't know what these pristine samples from Mars will tell us. But what they could tell us is monumental—including that life might have once existed beyond Earth," he added.

With the rover's successful landing on the red planet, this means that those who had previously signed up for their names to be sent via boarding passes on the Mars 2020 Perseverance mission have landed, too.

NASA previously gave the public an opportunity to send their names stenciled on chips to the Red Planet with NASA's Mars 2020 Perseverance rover.

The Mars 2020 Perseverance rover carried the names of 10.9 million people aboard. All submitted names were reviewed, approved and then etched onto a microchip placed aboard the rover.

Based on their map for future missions, there are currently a whopping 2 million+ signups from the Philippines. This probably speaks both about our enduring fascination with this mysterious neighboring planet as well as our desperation to get out of the country and move to a different planet.

In case you haven't signed up yet, you can still get a boarding pass to fly your name on the next Mars mission.

Get the lastest updates on the Mars 2020 Perseverance rover mission through NASA's website.

(Images via NASA/JPL-Caltech)