Mission Control at Jet Propulsion Laboratory roared with jubilation Thursday as the Perseverance Mars rover sent back word that it had landed safely on the Red Planet.
“Touchdown confirmed on the surface of Mars,” an excited voice announced.
The landing took place at 12:55 p.m. at Jezero Crater, just as anticipated.
After slamming into the Martian atmosphere at 12,100 mph, reaching temperatures of more than 2,300 degrees, Perseverance deployed its parachutes.
The rover then ditched the parachutes and used rockets to descend softly to the surface, lowered down the final few meters by a tether.
Acting NASA Administrator Steve Jurczyk commended the team on their success, describing it as “an amazing day.”
“What a credit to the team,” he said. “What an amazing team, to work through all the adversity and all the challenges that go with landing a rover on Mars, plus the challenges of COVID. It’s just an amazing accomplishment.”
Now that the rover has landed, its mission of exploration can begin.
JPL Director Mike Watkins said he expected exciting new science from the mission.
“It’s the biggest and best rover we’ve ever sent to Mars, and it can really do amazing things in terms of its own scientific exploration of this habitable environment at Jezero,” he said.
“It’s also the first step of Mars Sample Return. It’s setting us up for a series of missions to bring those samples back.”
Among Perseverance’s numerous tasks, it will store samples of Martian rocks and soil to be retrieved by a future mission.
— NASA’s Perseverance Mars Rover (@NASAPersevere) February 18, 2021
Perseverance will search for signs of ancient life on the Red Planet and provide invaluable information for the first humans who will one day follow.
In addition to a host of scientific instruments, Perseverance carries an experimental divide to create oxygen from the thin, primarily carbon dioxide Martian atmosphere, according to JPL.
It also carries under its belly a 4-found helicopter named Ingenuity, which is expected to carry out the first powered aerodynamic flight on another world in the coming weeks.
“The mission’s just started,” Watkins said. “We built the mission not to land, but actually to drive and get the samples and do other technology demonstrations.”
“This part of the mission is over, but for most of the team, the mission’s really just starting.”