‘Hello, world’: NASA Perseverance rover lands on Mars safely

NASA’s Perseverance rover, its most sophisticated one yet, successfully landed on the surface of Mars on Thursday after leaving Earth at the end of July. This is the space agency’s fifth rover to land on the Red Planet, where it will participate in a nearly $3 billion, two-year mission.

The rover, roughly the size of a car, will comb the Martian surface for evidence of ancient life and collect rock, microfossil, and soil samples from Jezero Crater to be sent back to Earth by the early 2030s. The crater is the site of an ancient lake that existed 3.9 billion years ago.

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Perseverance’s descent to Mars’ surface, according to NBC News, was dubbed the “seven minutes of terror” due to the complex sequence of programmed events that had to occur at specific times in order to successfully land the robotic explorer. When the rover’s touchdown was confirmed at 3:55 p.m. (EST), NASA officials in the control room at its Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California shot up from their seats with an elated uproar of cheers and clapping.

Perseverance, through its special Twitter account, posted the minute it touched down: “I’m safe on Mars. Perseverance will get you anywhere.”

Shortly after that, its account tweeted an image of the planet’s surface, saying, “Hello, world. My first look at my forever home.”

Notably, Perseverance is not the only recent visitor to Mars. Two other spacecraft launched by the China and the United Arab Emirates arrived earlier this month and entered the planet’s orbit.

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On top of searching for ancient life and collecting geological samples, Perseverance will snap pictures to send back to Earth and produce the first-ever recording of sound from Mars.

But that’s not the only groundbreaking—or rather groundless—thing set to happen.

Attached to Perseverance’s belly is a revolutionary, four-pound helicopter named Ingenuity, which is set to take part in the first controlled flight on another planet. Ingenuity, Wired reported, will be test-flown later this spring.

You can follow Douglas Braff on Twitter @Douglas_P_Braff.