NASA landed a new robotic rover on Mars on Thursday, its most ambitious effort in decades to directly study whether there was ever life on the red planet.
While the agency has landed other missions on Mars, the $2.7 billion robotic explorer named Perseverance carries a sophisticated set of scientific tools that will bring advanced capabilities to the search for life beyond our planet.
Perseverance was the third robotic visitor from Earth to arrive at the red planet this month. Last week, two other spacecraft, Hope from the United Arab Emirates and Tianwen-1 from China, entered orbit around Mars.
But NASA’s spacecraft did not go into orbit first. Instead it zipped along a direct path to the surface.
At 3:48 p.m. Eastern time, controllers at the mission operations center at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory near Pasadena, Calif., received word from Perseverance that it had entered the top of the Martian atmosphere at a speed of more than 12,000 miles per hour. The spacecraft was beginning the landing maneuvers that would bring it to a soft stop in just seven anxiety-drenched minutes.
All that anybody on Earth could do was watch and expectation that Perseverance proceeded as planned. At Mars, the destiny of the wanderer was at that point decided.
Mars is presently 126 million miles from Earth. Radio signs, going at the speed of light, require over 11 minutes to make a trip from that point to here. That implies that when the message declaring the beginning of the arrival grouping arrived at Earth, the meanderer had just been on Mars for four minutes. The lone vulnerability was whether it was protected there in one piece, or collided with numerous pieces, another human-made cavity on the outside of Mars.
The air of NASA’s tasks place — more scantily filled than past Mars arrivals as a result of insurances needed by the Covid pandemic — was contemplatively peaceful, broken by adulation as explicit situation transpired without issue.
There were intermittent declarations of the shuttle’s advancement through the climate, : the deceleration and warming as it cut through the flimsy Martian air, the organization of an enormous parachute even as it was as yet supersonic in speed, the shedding of the wanderer’s warmth shield with the goal that its cameras could explore to its objective, the terminating of rocket motors to additional sluggish its drop.
In the last advance, the wanderer was brought down toward the finish of a link underneath a rocket-fueled jetpack until it contacted the surface.
At 3:55 p.m. cheers ejected in the control live with the declaration that Perseverance was unblemished on a superficial level. “Score affirmed,” said Swati Mohan, the designer who gave discourse on the plunge.