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Perseverance rover successfully lands on Mars, a key step in NASA's search for signs of life

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NASA’s newest robotic explorer has landed safely on Mars after a nearly 300-million-mile journey that began on a Florida launch pad.

The agency’s Perseverance rover touched down on the Red Planet at 3:55 p.m. EST  Thursday, bringing an end to the “seven minutes of terror” that saw a fiery atmospheric entry and parachute-assisted descent. The rover’s landing mechanism then fired eight retrorockets to slow down and guide it to a proper landing spot before using nylon cords to lower it onto the surface.

“Touchdown confirmed! Perseverance is safely on the surface of Mars, ready to begin seeking the signs of past life,” exclaimed NASA engineer Swati Mohan.

All told, the unique landing maneuver successfully decelerated Perseverance from thousands of miles an hour to just 1.7 mph at touchdown. And because of an 11-minute delay in transmissions from Earth to Mars, the rover did it all on its own – no human input was possible.

Mission managers at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in California quickly received data from Mars satellites and the rover itself confirming a good touchdown, including the first images from Perseverance: scenes of a desolate, dusty landscape that looks dangerous to humans but full of potential for this scientist-explorer.

The first image captured by NASA's Perseverance rover of the surface of Mars after its successful landing on Thursday, Feb. 18, 2021.

“We got it. We’re there,” JPL Chief Engineer Rob Manning, who has worked on Mars landings for decades, said after landing. “This is so exciting and the team is beside themselves. This is so surreal. So much has been riding on this.”

Just minutes after the landing, Perseverance continued sending image after image from its hazard-detecting navigational cameras. Manning also confirmed teams knew exactly where the rover landed well ahead of schedule.

“This is a sign that NASA works,” Manning said. “When we put our arms together and our hands together and our brains together, we can succeed. This is what NASA does and this is what we can do as a country.”



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