Science

NASA’s Perseverance Mars rover lands on Red Planet after 300million mile voyage

mirror– NASA’s Mars rover Perseverance has landed on the Red Planet after a nearly 300million mile journey.

Cheers of joy and rapturous applause filled Mission Control back on Earth as the craft touched down without a hitch.

The rover, which is said to be in “great shape” after the intense landing, was launched from Cape Canaveral Florida, last July.

Its mission is to search the ancient Martian environment for signs life once existed on the planet.

The seven-month space voyage, officially named Mars 2020, has been nine years in the making.

Just moments after its successful landing, the rover began snapping pictures from the surface of the alien lake it has landed on.

The rover is exploring the Jezero crater for signs of life and water.

The US Space Agency’s ninth mission made a faultless landing ahead of its exploration of the cold, dry red planet.

NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory’s Swati Mohan confirmed the landing amid jubilant scenes back on Earth.

She announced: “NASA Perseverance rover successfully lands on Mars.”

Showing slides highlighting areas of various colours, Nasa’s Entry, Descent and Landing lead official Allen Chen, said: “I was just worried about what would kill us on landing.

“Red is generally bad, and you can see that the system managed to find a nice blue spot in the midst of all that red – all that death that’s out there for us.

“So we found a parking lot.”

Perseverance deputy project manager Matt Wallace said: “The good news is the spacecraft, I think, is in great shape.”

Now the rover – a £2.1billion car-sized probe and intergalactic space laboratory – will set to work trying to determine if Mars has previously supported life or could in the future.

Perseverance, equipped with its own helicopter,named Ingenuity, underwent several checks before its exploration.

Before landing, the rover successfully navigated a daredevil “seven minutes of terror” deceleration from 12,000mph to 1.7mph before touching down, as the world watched.

Scientists could be heard whispering “yuss, yuss” in excited tones as the craft inched closer to the Martian surface.

The moment it touched down was captured by 23 cameras, including those with colour, zoom and video capability, and two microphones.

Ingenuity also carried two cameras. It will conduct test flights on Mars – and if successful, will mark the first powered, controlled flight on another planet.

Dr Daniel Brown, an astronomy expert at Nottingham Trent University, told the Mirror: “This is a really exciting mission, bringing a host of highly-advanced equipment to the surface and landing in an area that could not be more promising to find traces of life.

“What a climax to the past few days of Mars missions.”

Perseverance, named by schoolchildren, took almost seven months to travel from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida to the red planet’s atmosphere.

It took only seven minutes to get from Mars’ atmosphere to the sandy ground.

Perseverance is now set to trundle through the equatorial crater Jezero, looking for the best samples it can cache for retrieval by a later mission.

The rover, which has six wheels, and its autonomous four-pound helicopter, will study the Red Planet’s atmosphere.

Throughout the British-backed mission, high-definition 4K images will be beamed back to mission control with an 11-minute delay as Perseverance goes about setting aside rock samples which are hoped to be returned to earth as early as 2031 for analysis.

Scientists think this will be the best approach to establishing whether or not life has ever existed on Mars.

The mission’s duration on the Red Planet’s surface is at least one Martian year, or about 687 days.

One of the tests – called MOXIE (Mars Oxygen In-Situ Resource Utilization Experiment) – is hoped to demonstrate how future explorers might produce oxygen from the Martian atmosphere for fuel and for breathing.

Dr Brown added: “The rover will be able to image the surface in detail but also gather drilled rock samples which it will leave behind on the surface for future follow-up missions in 2026 that will return these samples hopefully by 2031.

“Analysing them on Earth will be amazing since it allows us to look for traces of life in far more detail.”

Scientists know that 3.5 billion years ago, Jezero was the site of a large lake, complete with its own delta.

They believe that while the water may be long gone, somewhere within the crater, or maybe along its 2,000-foot-tall (610 metre) rim, evidence that life once existed there could be waiting.

 

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