After a nail-biting 203 day journey across 293 million miles NASA’s Perseverance Mars rover has alighted safely on the surface of the planet.
Acting NASA Administrator Steve Jurczyk said, “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. 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.”
The rover’s main job will be an examination of the astrobiology, including the search for signs of ancient microbial life. Once examined at the scene, the idea is that NASA and colleagues from the European Space Agency plan to take the samples back to earth for further analysis. “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,” noted Thomas Zurbuchen, associate administrator for science at NASA. “Perseverance is the first step in bringing back rock and regolith from Mars. 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.”
The landing location, the Jezero Crater, has been carefully chosen. It’s a crater which scientists reckon could have had its own river delta 3.5 billion years ago. If it was filled with water then there may still be signs of life detectable.
Another interesting aspect of the project is the Ingenuity Mars Helicopter which will attempt the first powered flight on Mars. Should this prove successful it will act as a template for future operations performing tasks such as delivering items to astronauts working remotely.