Perseverance, NASA’s most cutting-edge robotic explorer to date, successfully landed on Mars on Thursday following a harrowing self-guided descent dubbed the “seven minutes of terror.”
Mission control at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory headquarters near Los Angeles erupted into applause and cheers at around 3:55 p.m., as radio signals confirmed the SUV-sized rover had survived its risky landing and arrived on Mars in one piece.
“Touchdown confirmed,” operations lead Swati Mohan announced.
The $2.7 billion rover set down in the Jezero Crater area of the red planet, an ancient lake bed where scientists hope to find signs of fossilized life.
It then beamed its first black and white images back to Earth, showing Mars’ rocky, desolate surface and horizon, as well as the spacecraft’s own shadow on the landing site.
“I’m safe on Mars. Perseverance will get you anywhere,” read a tweet from an account set up for the rover.
After a 293 million mile, seven-month journey, the six-wheeled rover began its perilous descent around 3:48 p.m., when it streaked into the the Martian atmosphere at around 12,000 miles per hour.
It then executed a series of complex, self-guided maneuvers to slow its descent and land successfully.
NASA engineers half-jokingly refer to the nail-biting period from when the rover enters the atmosphere to when it lands as the “seven minutes of terror.”
Because it takes 11 minutes for radio waves to travel one way between Mars and Earth, the rover had already reached the Martian surface by the time its arrival was confirmed via satellite.
Now on Mars, it will search for signs of ancient life and gather rocks, dust and soil samples that it will bring back to Earth. It will also try out technologies that could eventually help the dry planet support human life.
With Post wires