NASA’s latest robotic explorer Perseverance safely landed on Mars after a journey of almost 300-million-mile from the Florida launch pad.  It is the most advanced astrobiology laboratory ever sent to another planet. Perseverance touched down on the Red Planet at 3:55 p.m. EST. Its entry witnessed “seven minutes of terror” with a fiery atmosphere and parachute-assisted descent.

“Touchdown confirmed! Perseverance is safely on the surface of Mars, ready to begin seeking the signs of past life,” NASA engineer Swati Mohan exclaimed. Soon after the landing at Jezero Crater, the rover sent its first photograph from Mars. “Hello, world. My first look at my forever home,” wrote a Twitter handle of Perseverance.  Jezero Crater is a region that is once believed to have a huge lake fed by rivers. Perseverance will target regolith and rocks in the region to study the past and present signs of life.

Dr. Swati Mohan

“This landing is one of those pivotal moments for NASA, the United States, and space exploration globally – when we know we are on the cusp of discovery and sharpening our pencils, so to speak, to rewrite the textbooks,” the space agency’s administrator Steve Jurczyk said in a statement.

“The Mars 2020 Perseverance mission embodies our nation’s spirit of persevering even in the most challenging of situations, inspiring, and advancing science and exploration. The mission itself personifies the human ideal of persevering toward the future and will help us prepare for human exploration of the Red Planet,” Jurczyk added.

Unlike older rovers sent to the red planet that were dependent on solar power, Perseverance relies on nuclear power. This is quite crucial on Mars where huge dust storms can leave solar panels useless.

“It’s the biggest and best rover that we’ve ever sent to Mars. It can really do amazing things in terms of its own scientific exploration of this habitable environment at Jezero,” said NASA’s Director of the Jet Propulsion Laboratory Mike Watkins.

Perseverance’s surface mission is expected to last for one Martian year, which means two Earth years.