After several months of interplanetary travel and a high-risk 7-minute landing, the Perseverance rover has landed its wheels on the surface of Mars.
The “7 minutes of terror” have passed. The Perseverance rover landed correctly on the Martian surface in Jezero crater, NASA confirmed on Twitter. “I’m safe on Mars,” the space agency tweeted, lending an imaginary voice to the rover.
After 7 months and 480 million kilometers of interplanetary travel, the rover reached the Red Planet, while mission teams and the public held their breath. The landing phase was sensed as an intense and rather scary moment, hence the expression “7 minutes of terror” coined by the Jet Propulsion Laboratory. Shortly after arriving on Mars, the rover was able to send a first image.
A SECOND ROVER ON MARS
With the arrival of Perseverance, the US space agency now has a second active rover on Mars – the other rover being Curiosity. The newcomer will have one main goal: to look for signs of possible microbial life on the red planet. To this end, Perseverance is equipped with scientific instrumentation which will notably enable it to collect samples from the soil of Mars, destined to return to Earth one day. So the rover could help answer an essential question: Was Mars habitable? This microbiological dimension is unprecedented: never before have samples been brought back from space with the aim of studying the traces of life.
Perseverance’s presence on Mars should also prove to be very important in the perspective of a future manned mission to the planet. The rover will thus test a method to produce oxygen from the Martian atmosphere. In addition, the rover is not alone in landing in Jezero crater: the Ingenuity helicopter is housed under its belly. At the appropriate time, it will land on Martian soil and should attempt to fly. If successful, it will be the first flight to another planet in the history of space exploration.
The site for Perseverance was not chosen at random: the rover landed in the Jezero Crater, an impact structure 45 kilometers in diameter. The area is home to a delta, that is, a mouth that must have formed where water likely flowed into a lake. After this location was chosen for the Perseverance landing, Jezero Crater turned out to be even more promising than expected.