Society 11:25 19/02/2021 World

Nasa's Perseverance rover successfully lands on Mars

Nasa has successfully landed its latest lander on Mars, The Independent reports. 

The Perseverance robot successfully made its way to the surface after withstanding “seven minutes of terror” to drop down through the perilous Martian atmosphere.

The rover will now begin its work examining the red planet’s surface to find whether there is evidence of past alien life. It will also launch the first ever controlled flight on another planet – in the form of a helicopter – as well as exploring the ways that humans might be able to survive on Mars.

Mission controllers at Nasa’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in California watched on an 11-minute delay as the vehicle guided itself down to the ground. Radio signals eventually confirmed the rover had survived being dropped into Jezero Crater, the site of a former lake that was selected because it could once have been home to life.

The arrival brought to a journey that saw Perseverance fly through space for almost seven months and almost 300 million miles. Its final “seven minutes of terror”, as it made its way through the entry, descent and landing part of the mission, marked the most perilous part of the journey.

But it also began a process that will see the rover explore the surface, examining the soil and rocks as well as storing them away with the intention they will one day be collected and brought back to Earth.

“It really is the beginning of a new era,” Nasa’s associate administrator for science, Thomas Zurbuchen, said earlier in the day during Nasa’s webcast of the event.

Perseverance is one of three spacecraft to arrive at the planet this month, following those from the Chinese and United Arab Emirates space agencies. All took advantage of the helpful alignment of Earth and Mars, that happens every two years and two months.

The landing represented the riskiest part of two-year, $2.7bn endeavour whose primary aim is to search for possible fossilized signs of microbes that may have flourished on Mars some 3 billion years ago, when the fourth planet from the sun was warmer, wetter and potentially hospitable to life.

Scientists hope to find biosignatures embedded in samples of ancient sediments that Perseverance is designed to extract from Martian rock for future analysis back on Earth – the first such specimens ever collected by humankind from another planet.

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