Perseverance rover has successfully landed on Mars and sent back its first images

Published in 19 February, 2021

(CNN)The NASA Perseverance rover safely landed on Mars after its 292.5 million-mile journey from Earth, the agency confirmed at 3:55 p.m. ET Thursday. The rover landed itself flawlessly, according to the mission’s team.

“Percy,” as the spacecraft is affectionately called at mission control, sent back its first images of the landing site immediately after touchdown, which shows the rover’s shadow on the surface of its landing site of Jezero Crater.
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Zurbuchen also shared that despite the fact that many of those on Perseverance’s team couldn’t be on site at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory due to Covid social-distancing protocols, it was the first time many of those in mission control had been together in the same room in a long time.
Now that the rover has landed, the mission truly begins.
“There is something special about the first few days, because we have just landed a representative of the planet Earth on a place on Mars that no one has ever been to,” said Mike Watkins, director for JPL.
Mars will be visible next to the moon in the night sky Thursday evening, so be sure to look up and wave to our newest robotic explorer.

Landing on Mars: ‘7 minutes of terror’

Perseverance is NASA’s ninth landing on Mars and the agency’s fifth rover. In order to land, it had to go through the infamous “seven minutes of terror.”
The one-way time it takes for radio signals to travel from Earth to Mars is about 11 minutes, which means the seven minutes it takes for the spacecraft to land on Mars occurs without any help or intervention from NASA teams on Earth.
This rover is the heaviest NASA has ever attempted to land, weighing in at over a metric ton.
The spacecraft hit the top of the Martian atmosphere moving at 12,000 miles per hour and had to slow down to 1.7 miles per hour seven minutes later when the rover softly landed on the surface.
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The spacecraft’s heat shield endured peak heating of 2,370 degrees Fahrenheit.
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Perseverance will capture images of its surroundings and send them back, unfold its “head” and take more pictures while going through some health checkups with engineers.
Teams on Earth will go through a month of inspections, software downloads and preparations for roving.
The helicopter team will make sure Ingenuity is safe, healthy and ready to fly, “a true extraterrestrial Wright Brothers moment,” according to Zurbuchen.
Over a process that takes about 10 days, the rover will drop the helicopter on the surface of Mars and roll away from it. The little 4-pound helicopter will have to survive frigid nights on Mars, keep itself warm and charge itself using solar panels. Then, it will be ready for its first flight, which will last about 20 seconds.
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“The Ingenuity team will be on the edge of our seats with the Perseverance team on landing day,” said MiMi Aung, the Ingenuity project manager. “We can’t wait until the rover and the helicopter are both safely on the surface of Mars and ready for action.”
Perseverance will search for evidence of ancient life and study Mars’ climate and geology and collect samples that will eventually be returned to Earth by the 2030s.
“Perseverance’s sophisticated science instruments will not only help in the hunt for fossilized microbial life, but also expand our knowledge of Martian geology and its past, present, and future,” said Ken Farley, project scientist for Mars 2020, in a statement.
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The path Perseverance will traverse is about 15 miles long, an “epic journey” that will take years, Farley said. What scientists could discover about Mars, though, is worth the journey. To accomplish its goals, Perseverance will drive a little less than 0.1 mile per hour, three times faster than previous rovers.
    Perseverance also carries instruments that could help further exploration on Mars in the future, like MOXIE, the Mars Oxygen In-Situ Resource Utilization Experiment. This experiment, about the size of a car battery, will attempt to convert Martian carbon dioxide into oxygen.
    Not only could this help NASA scientists learn how to produce rocket fuel on Mars, but also oxygen that could be used during future human exploration of the red planet.

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