NASA makes history with the landing of their newest rover on Mars

Erin McCormick, Entertainment Editor

Perseverance, NASA’s fifth rover on Mars, which launched on Jul. 20, 2020 from the Cape Canaveral Space Launch Complex 41 in Florida, is the most technologically advanced rover NASA has ever sent to the planet.

PHOTO COURTESY OF KFDI.COM

It takes seven minutes for any communication to reach Mars from Earth, meaning Perseverance had to land safely on its own without human assistance. This nerve-racking interval is what is known as “seven minutes of terror” as the NASA engineers wait to know if their $2.4 billion technological marvel has landed safely on the desert planet.

“I don’t think we’ve had a mission that is going to contribute so much to both science and technology,” said NASA’s Acting Administrator Steve Jurczyk in an interview with Space.com shortly before Perseverance touched down. “It’s going to be truly amazing.”

Perseverance touched down safely on Mars’ Jezero Crater seven months after departure on Feb. 18, 2021. It will stay on Mars and explore the region for at least one Mars year which equates to two Earth years. 

The rover resembles an upgraded version of its predecessor, Curiosity, that can travel faster and farther, and is more agile around obstacles on the rocky planet. The rover is also equipped with cameras that reduce motion blur so photos can be taken while the rover is moving, offering humans higher definition photos of Mars’ surface. 

One of its most important features is its tool to drill into a river delta on Mars to gather rock samples that may prove evidence of ancient life. There is evidence that Mars was not always a dry planet and that it was actually wet a billion years ago, which could be a sign of possible life. The life that NASA expects to discover is nothing more than microbes, bacteria-like or other single cell organisms, not green aliens with three fingers like seen in films. This data that Perseverance will collect will be sent to Earth in the near future.

The rover took an image of its landed spot and NASA released the video of Preserverence’s descent onto Mars. NASA also released audio of Mars caught by Perseverance. 

“This video of Perseverance’s descent is the closest you can get to landing on Mars without putting on a pressure suit,” said Thomas Zurbuchen, NASA associate administrator for science. “It should become mandatory viewing for young women and men who not only want to explore other worlds and build the spacecraft that will take them there, but also want to be part of the diverse teams achieving all the audacious goals in our future.”

Perseverance is a giant leap forward in space technology, classifying as the largest, most advanced rover NASA has ever sent to another planet. Its mission is just as important with its data collection for the discovery of life on Mars, an answer humans have waited decades to know. NASA is planning on creating projects even bigger than Perseverance to further our knowledge of the mysterious Red Planet.