Mars' Perseverance successfully touches down on Mars

2/19/2021 12:03:00 AM

BREAKING: NASA's Perseverance rover successfully touches down on Mars, as part of one of the agency's most ambitious deep-space missions to search for signs of ancient life on the red planet.

-- kicked off at 2:30 p.m. ET.It takes a little over 11 minutes for signals to travel from Mars to Earth, so the"live" coverage will have that delay. The riskiest portion of the mission, when the rover begins its entry on Mars (dubbed the"seven minutes of terror," according to NASA engineers), is expected to begin at around 3:38 p.m. ET.

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NASA/AFP via Getty ImagesNASA's Perseverance rover lands safely on Mars, Feb. 16, 2021, in an illustration released by NASA.The complexities of deep-space communications could delay when mission controllers on Earth confirm parts of Perseverance's landing, NASA said, but also noted that the rover has the ability to land safely without communications to Earth using autonomous, pre-programmed landing instructions. Additional communications, expected in the hours and days after the landing event, should provide more details on how the rover fared.

MORE: UAE Hope probe reaches Mars orbit ahead of China and US missions"Mars is hard and we never take success for granted," Thomas Zurbuchen, the associate administrator for the Science Mission Directorate at NASA, said during a Tuesday news conference.

Zurbuchen added that they will land on Mars"with cameras on, so the entire world is inspired with us as we do new and tough things and demonstrate these new technologies.""Because whether it's on the red planet or here at home on our blue marble, science can bring us together and create solutions to challenges that seem impossible at first," Zurbuchen said.

Touching down at 'the most challenging Martian terrain ever targeted for a landing'Thursday's landing is the culmination of over a decade of work, but there is still no guarantee the landing will go smoothly -- only about 50% of all previous Mars landing attempts have succeeded, according to NASA.

Francois Duckett/APA computer model of Mars with color and scale enhanced for clarity showing locations of missions that have landed on the planet.Zurbuchen said in a statement that Peseverance is"focused scientifically on finding out whether there was ever any life on Mars in the past."

"To answer this question, the landing team will have its hands full getting us to Jezero Crater -- the most challenging Martian terrain ever targeted for a landing," he added.The Jezero Crater is the site where an ancient river flowed into a lake on Mars, scientists believe, and where signs of ancient life may have been best preserved.

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MORE: NASA's Mars Perseverance completes successful launch, will look for signs of 'ancient life'"The Perseverance team is putting the final touches on the complex choreography required to land in Jezero Crater," Jennifer Trosper, the deputy project manager for the mission at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, said in a statement."No Mars landing is guaranteed, but we have been preparing a decade to put this rover’s wheels down on the surface of Mars and get to work."

The rover is also equipped with new technology that lets it target its landing site more accurately and avoid hazards autonomously, according to NASA.Mission goalsNASA/JPL-CaltechIn a clean room at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, engineers observed the first driving test for NASA's Mars 2020 rover on Dec. 17, 2019.

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Too much talking during the landing!! Wanted to hear control room directly. The livestream footage on YouTube was awe inspiring. Congrats everyone!!! I absolutely LOVE the diversity in this room. It’s a stark contrast to the all white male mission control rooms of the 60’s. AdobeDocCloud You guys did it. Congratulations.