Perseverance rover lands on Mars

Perseverance Rover

WATCH: Perseverance Lands on Mars Today in '7 Minutes of Terror'

NASA's Perseverance rover has successfully landed on Mars. That launch was carefully timed to get the rover to the planet at its closest to Earth.

That gives the rover a clear science mission: To find signs of ancient microbial life and to prove - if at all possible - that life has existed beyond Earth.

The first image taken by a hazard camera, or hazcam, on the Perseverance rover after landing on Mars.

The target for the car-sized, plutonium-powered rover was a narrow strip on an ancient river delta full of pits, cliffs and fields of rock.

The computer controls a visual navigation algorithm using Mars surface geographical features tracked with the camera.

NASA's most sophisticated rover to date has a packed agenda for the next few years.

This will attempt the first-ever controlled flight of an aircraft on the surface of another planet.

It takes a nail-biting 11 1/2 minutes for a signal that would confirm success to reach Earth.

Perseverance's descent has been described by NASA as "seven minutes of terror", in which flight controllers can only watch helplessly.

This illustration depicts NASA's Perseverance rover operating on the surface of Mars.

A replica of the Mars 2020 Perseverance Rover is shown during a press conference ahead of the launch of a United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket carrying the rover, at the Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Florida, U.S. July 29, 2020.

"You can imagine all the problems and things that we're facing here on Earth and yet there on another world out in space all these countries are all working together, even if governments aren't even talking to each other", Unger said.

"This is one of the most hard maneuvers we make in the space business", Matt Wallace, deputy project manager of NASA's Mars 2020 mission, told reporters on Wednesday.

The robotic vehicle sailed through space for almost seven months, covering 293 million miles (472 million km) before piercing the Martian atmosphere at 12,000 miles per hour (19,000 km per hour) to begin its approach to touchdown on the planet's surface.

The landing sequence for Perseverance is essentially the same high-wire act that a previous rover, Curiosity, used to land in 2012. All that resistance, however, acted as a powerful brake, and three minutes after peak heating, the speed of the ship was reduced to 1,609 kph, slow enough for the heat shield to be jettisoned and a parachute to deploy.

"The Ingenuity team will be on the edge of our seats with the Perseverance team on landing day", said MiMi Aung, the Ingenuity project manager.

Nasa and the European Space Agency (Esa) have devised a multi-billion-dollar plan to go fetch these cylinders towards the end of the decade.

The Jezero Crater is where the Perseverance rover, with FiberTech Optica's technology onboard, landed Thursday.

"There's been a lot of work done to really assess how the instruments are going to work together and determining what minerals are present and what minerals are the most interesting ones to sample", he said.

The helicopter team will make sure Ingenuity is safe, healthy and ready to fly, "a true extraterrestrial Wright Brothers moment", according to Thomas Zurbuchen, associate administrator for NASA's Science Mission Directorate. This will help NASA study how to produce oxygen from Mars' carbon dioxide atmosphere, an important step for the future of human exploration on Mars.

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