NASA’s latest rover has made it to the floor of Mars. After a journey of almost seven months, the Perseverance rover landed on the Crimson Planet on 18 February.
The success of the touchdown was not at all a foregone conclusion – of all of the missions to Mars’s floor, solely about 40 per cent have landed safely. Perseverance is the biggest rover ever despatched to Mars, which made the touchdown much more troublesome. Its arrival at Jezero crater was heralded by cheers and audible aid within the mission management room at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California.
The spacecraft used a warmth protect after which a parachute to decelerate from about 20,000 kilometres per hour to lower than 4 kilometres per hour. It was then lowered fastidiously to the floor by a “sky crane” just like the one which was used within the Curiosity rover touchdown in 2012.
The principle distinction from the Curiosity touchdown was a brand new navigation system that took photographs of the touchdown space and in contrast them with maps to pick a protected spot to the touch down. “That is lastly like touchdown along with your eyes open,” mentioned Perseverance staff member Swati Mohan in the course of the on-line NASA livestream of the touchdown.
Subsequent, engineers will run well being checks on the rover and its devices earlier than starting to discover the planet’s floor. The rover has two essential targets: to select up and stash samples of Martian mud and rocks that might be returned to Earth in a deliberate 2026 mission, and to seek for indicators of historic life.
“Based mostly on every little thing we learn about Mars previously, it completely ought to have been able to supporting historic life,” mentioned Katie Stack Morgan, additionally a Perseverance staff member, in the course of the livestream. “Learning the doable emergence of life on historic Mars may assist us higher perceive the circumstances that led to life on our personal planet.” The seek for historic life on Mars begins now.
Signal as much as our free Launchpad publication for a voyage throughout the galaxy and past, each Friday
Extra on these subjects: