Perseverance or Percy is the ninth spacecraft to successfully land on Mars. It is the biggest and most advanced rover sent by NASA.
The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) celebrated their success after the rover Perseverence successfully landed on planet Mars after a tense 7-minute descent on the afternoon of February 18. The rover was sent to search for signs of ancient life on the red planet.
"Touchdown confirmed! Perseverance safely on the surface of Mars, ready to begin seeking signs of past life," flight controller Swati Mohan announced, reports Richmond Times-Dispatch. The ground controllers at the space agency’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, jumped in joy and cheered loudly when they received confirmation that the six-wheeled rover touched down on the red planet.
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
"What an amazing day," Steve Jurczyk, NASA's acting administrator, said shortly after the landing was confirmed, according to ABC. "What an amazing team, the work through all the adversity and all the challenges that go with landing a rover on Mars, plus the challenges of COVID ... just an amazing accomplishment," he added.
The rover, which has been nicknamed "Percy," sent its first image of the planet just a few minutes after landing.
The rover's journey will help humans reach the red planet one day. Perseverance traveled for seven months through space after being launched from the Florida coast in July 2020, to land on Mars' Jezero Crater at 3:55 p.m. ET on Thursday, February 18, 2021.
The rover happens to be the third one to visit Mars in just over a week, reports Richmond Times-Dispatch. One spacecraft from the United Arab Emirates and China each had traveled into the orbit around Mars on successive days last week. The UAE, China, and NASA mission lifted off in July 2020 to take advantage of the close alignment of Earth and Mars. The spacecrafts traveled some 300 million miles in nearly seven months.
Percy, which is the biggest and most advanced rover ever sent by NASA, is the ninth spacecraft to successfully land on Mars. The previous ones have also been from the U.S. beginning in the 1970s.
So far, the success rate of landing on Mars has been around 50%, and even with Percy, there was no guarantee that this product of more than a decade's hard work would make it, as per ABC.
"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," said acting NASA Administrator Steve Jurczyk in a press release. "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."
Percy is the size of a car, and is a robotic geologist and astrobiologist. It "will undergo several weeks of testing before it begins its two-year science investigation of Mars’ Jezero Crater," said NASA.
"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 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."
Cover image source: Getty Images | Photo by Sebastian Kaulitzki/Science Photo Library