Mars Landing: Nasa Celebrates as its Perseverance Rover Reaches the Red Planet
Touchdown! Nasa's Perseverance Mars rover has successfully landed on the red planet and will begin its mission to look for signs of ancient life.
The rover is the most advanced robot ever sent to Mars and has safely passed its daring seven-minute landing that had many spectators hold their breath as the rover was on its own once it entered Martian territory. The touchdown also happened on the most challenging terrain, the Jezero Crater, ever targeted on Mars. Perseverance joins its other robot explorer friend, Curiosity who's been calling Mars home since 2012 while the other intrepid rover, Opportunity has lost contact with Nasa in 2019 with its last message, "My battery is low and it's getting dark."
The car-sized Perseverance is the heart of Nasa's Mars 2020 mission which is to hunt for signs of ancient Mars life, collect rock samples to return to Earth to study the planet's geology and to test new exploration technologies among many other things.
Speaking to Space.com earlier this week, Nasa acting administrator Steve Jurczyk said, "I don't think we've had a mission that is going to contribute so much to both science and technology. It's going to be truly amazing."
(Related: 5 Movies About Mars That You Need To Watch)
The mission comes after the delayed launch due to Covid-19. But Jurczyk said that it's all thanks to the "dedication and hard work of the team" that the mission is finally able to happen. Bearing the moniker, Perseverance is a testament to the spirit of the mission. The name, like other Mars rovers, was picked via a nationwide student competition.
Just minutes after the rover's touchdown, it has already sent back the first two images of its new home. The black-and-white photographs were taken using hazard cameras attached to the spacecraft. The first image might not look so impressive, shows the shadow of the rover on the surface, but it actually helps Nasa personnel identify where Perservance touched down in the landing zone.
The second image shows the rocky surface of the Jezero Crater which scientists were keen to see given that they believed the location was once a crater. They needed confirmation if it was still covered in water, one of the signs of life. By studying these rocks, scientists hope to better understand the planet's past habitability and look for traces of life.
Follow Perseverance's journey on its Twitter account.
While those of us back on Earth can still celebrate this milestone, space tourism isn't quite here yet. But a new augmented reality app might provide us with the closest glimpse of the red planet. Mission to Mars AR app is set to launch this week, coinciding with Perseverance's touch down.
Available for free to users, the app allows users to superimpose images of Mars including videos of the rover and learn about the planet by analyzing rocks. It's the perfect stepping stone for the next space explorer.
The new app is developed by Warsaw-based studio, Immersion alongside Smithsonian Channel, USA Today Network's Emerging Technology and Florida Today.
"I think that's the thing that's going to be very exciting for our users who might have a general interest in space exploration. But something like this, I think, it really can help drive that fascination and guide users to want to learn more," said Ray Soto, USA Today Networks director of emerging tech.
Charles Poe, the senior vice president for global production and emerging technology for the Smithsonian Channel hopes that the app will engage space fans and help others dive into their passion for interstellar exploration. "We want to make sure everybody appreciates both the technical challenge, the extraordinary achievements that are part of this mission. And I do think that augmented reality lets you appreciate that in a completely different way," he said.
(Related: The Tatler Guide to Visiting Outer Space)