Nasa Perseverance rover successfully lands on Mars

Lawrence Kim
February 19, 2021

Perseverance is NASA's fifth Mars rover, dating back to the Sojourner rover flown on the Mars Pathfinder mission that landed in 1997, and is by far the most sophisticated. Yet its location is critical to the core of the rover's mission: to look for evidence of ancient microbial life on Mars, and understand how Mars evolved from a habitable world to the cold, barren planet it is today.

Twu said previous missions to Mars focused on answering the question if ancient Mars could have supported life.

The first photos sent back by the probe show a relatively smooth and dusty surface, with a few small rocks in the rover's immediate vicinity.

The rover will collect the samples from the planet's Jezero Crater because it is an ancient river delta, meaning that area used to have water and ingredients needed for life.

NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter relayed data from the rover throughout landing.

The computer controls a visual navigation algorithm using Mars surface geographical features tracked with the camera.

The preprogrammed spacecraft was created to hit the thin Martian atmosphere at 19,500kmh, then use a parachute to slow it down and a rocket-steered platform known as a sky crane to lower the rover the rest of the way to the surface.

For a full breakdown of Perseverance's bells and whistles visit the rover's official page on NASA's website. If things go well, Ingenuity will become the first aircraft of its kind ever flown on another planet.

The spacecraft's self-guided descent and landing during a complex series of maneuvers that NASA dubbed "the seven minutes of terror" stands as the most elaborate and challenging feat in the annals of robotic spaceflight.

NASA TV has scheduled Perseverance landing coverage to begin at 2 p.m. ET on Thursday. Perseverance is "alive on the surface of Mars", declared a NASA spokesperson seconds after confirmation of the landing. The rover will also investigate Jezero Crater, which was a lake 3.9 billion years ago.

"This is the first step in a Mars sample return".

Illustration of the Perseverance rover, with its heat shield facing the planet, as it begins its descent through the Martian atmosphere. Firing the rockets rapidly eliminated the remaining speed and steered the rover towards its landing zone where it was finally lowered to the ground from a hover via a "sky crane" similar to the one used to land Curiosity. It's a "4-billion-year window into planetary evolution", says Katie Stack Morgan, the mission's deputy project scientist at JPL. "So once you get that picture back, that's when everyone knows everything worked out perfectly and we're ready to go".

Once the spacecraft has slowed down to less than 1,000 miles (1,600 kilometers) an hour, it's time to deploy the 70.5 feet (21.5 meters) wide supersonic parachute at an altitude of seven miles (11 kilometers).

Should it safely land, Perseverance will have company elsewhere on the red planet.

"It is not guaranteed that we will be successful", Thomas Zurbuchen, NASA's Science Mission Directorate's associate administrator, acknowledged.

Perseverance's payload also includes demonstration projects that could help pave the way for eventual human exploration of Mars, including a device to convert the carbon dioxide in Mars' atmosphere into pure oxygen.

Nasa is teaming up with the European Space Agency to bring the rocks home.

Other reports by Click Lancashire

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