The spacecraft carries MOXIE, an experiment that will attempt to convert Marsian carbon dioxide to oxygen for future human exploration.
After being launched over six months ago, NASA's Perseverance rover has finally completed its 292.5 million-mile journey from Earth to Mars. The agency confirmed that the spacecraft, affectionately called "Percy" at mission control, has landed flawlessly on Thursday. It has also sent back images of the landing site of Jezero Crater immediately after touching down. "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," shared acting NASA Administrator Steve Jurczyk, reports CNN.
Living up to its name, Perseverance and her team have overcome several challenges, especially preparing for the final legs of its journey during a pandemic. "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 in the 2030s," continued Steve Jurczyk.
After 203 days and 300 million miles, our @NASAPersevere landed on Mars at 3:55 p.m. EST on Feb. 18. After spending some time checking out its systems, it'll be rolling across the Red Planet, looking for signs of ancient Martian life. https://t.co/3Tr7doXdJS pic.twitter.com/FhwoXz5l4n— NASA (@NASA) February 19, 2021
NASA's fifth rover Perseverance landed on Mars, making it the ninth time for the agency. That being said, the spacecraft has many firsts. There's an experimental helicopter called Ingenuity along with it that will be the first helicopter to fly on another planet. Perseverance will also be the first to record sounds on the planet and look for signs of ancient life. "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," said NASA's associate administrator for Science Mission Directorate Thomas Zurbuchen.
"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," continued Zurbuchen. "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 project scientist for Mars 2020 in a statement.
"Every time we do a launch or we do a landing, we get two plans. One plan is the one we want to do, and then there's that second plan." - #NASAScience's @Dr_ThomasZ celebrates a successful #CountdownToMars landing by ripping up the contingency plan. pic.twitter.com/pexxK5a07d— NASA (@NASA) February 18, 2021
The spacecraft will travel in a 15 miles long path, an "epic journey" that will take years, Farley said. Apparently, it will be driving at a speed that is a little below 0.1 miles per hour, which is three times faster than previous rovers. It also carries instruments, like the Mars Oxygen In-Situ Resource Utilization Experiment (MOXIE) that could tremendously help us in future exploration of Mars. This experiment will attempt to convert the carbon dioxide on Mars into oxygen and allow NASA scientists to find out how they can produce rocket fuel on the red planet.
Congratulations to NASA and everyone whose hard work made Perseverance’s historic landing possible. Today proved once again that with the power of science and American ingenuity, nothing is beyond the realm of possibility. pic.twitter.com/NzSxW6nw4k— President Biden (@POTUS) February 18, 2021
The spacecraft landed on its target site which has been the most challenging one to date for NASA. The 28-mile-wide ancient lake bed and river delta is a small site scattered with steep cliffs, boulders, sand dunes, and small craters, making it a very difficult place to land and navigate. Thanks to two upgrades called Range Trigger and Terrain-Relative Navigation, the spacecraft will be guided while traveling hazardous sites.
Where am I now? Check out this interactive map to zoom in and explore my landing site:https://t.co/uPsKFhW17J— NASA's Perseverance Mars Rover (@NASAPersevere) February 19, 2021
And for the ground level view, my first images are here, with many more to come in the days ahead:https://t.co/Ex1QDo3eC2 pic.twitter.com/B6TJTikAyX
The upgrades have already proven accurate and useful during its picture-perfect landing on Mars. Now, the rover will begin its two-year mission starting with the "checkout" period. You can follow its journey using interactive maps and also take a look at the raw images sent by the rover which will be available to the public on NASA's site immediately after they receive it. New images are expected to come in by Friday, the mission team revealed.