NASA’s ambitious next-generation Perseverance rover, a one-ton mobile science lab, was slowly lowered to the surface of an ancient lake bed on Mars Thursday afternoon. The landing took place on Earth, with NASA Engineer Swati Mohan Delivers Critical Final Words: “Touchdown confirmed. ”
Howls and howls sounded throughout NASA’s mission control at the Pasadena, Calif., Jet Propulsion Laboratory as it landed, but it wasn’t like past landings on Mars. Cheering scientists and engineers jumped off the chairs, but social distancing requirements kept them (mostly) from their usual warm hugs.
This is what landing a rover on Mars looks like during a global pandemic.
— NASA (@NASA) February 18, 2021
— NASA's Perseverance Mars Rover (@NASAPersevere) February 18, 2021
“What an honor to the team,” said Steve Jurczyk, NASA interim administrator. “Everything went pretty much as planned. ”
Before landing, astronomers expressed a mixture of excitement and nervousness. “The only thing that is essential to a successful mission is a safe landing,” said Glen Nagle, outreach officer at Australia’s Canberra Deep Space communications complex, which is part of NASA’s communicating satellite dish network. with robots across the solar system. “Neither we nor the mission scientists have any real control over all of this. ”
The Entry, Descent, and Landing (EDL) procedure has been dubbed “the Seven Minutes of Terror” – and for good reason, because a lot can go wrong. But the perseverance hit the atmosphere as it moved at around 12,000 miles per hour and slowed to a complete stop in 420 seconds, a process NASA is practically now having now. NASA last landed a rover on Mars in August 2012, when Curiosity, the cousin of Perseverance, landed to study carbon-based molecules.
The mission is expected to last one year on Mars, or about 687 Earth days. But if history is something to follow, NASA will be able to expand that further as it did with previous rover missions, like Curiosity.
In the coming days, one can expect to see and hear how the landing occurred. NASA’s InSight lander listened from its home position, Elysium Planitia, near the equator of Mars, as Perseverance entered the thin atmosphere. And the rover itself is equipped with a suite of cameras and a microphone to capture all the little details. “It’s a new sensory way to engage with the red planet,” said Alice Gorman, space archaeologist at Flinders University in Australia. “We can close our eyes, imagine ourselves standing on the surface of Mars and listening to the sounds of Martian nature. ”