UPDATE: Rover Lands on Mars

Posted: February 22, 2021

A National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) rover streaked through the orange sky over Mars and landed safely on the Red Planet Thursday. It traveled 300 million miles to get there. Ground controllers leaped to their feet. They cheered in triumph and relief. It was the news they’d been waiting on for nearly seven months. The six-wheeled Perseverance is now on Mars.

This is the third spacecraft to arrive to Mars in just over a week. The United Arab Emirates’ Hope Orbiter swung into orbit around Mars on February 9. Next came China’s Tianwen-1 Mars Probe. NASA’s Perseverance rover was the last of the three crafts to reach the fourth planet from the Sun. But it is the first to land. Read more about the three missions here: 2020: The Summer of Mars.

Perseverance––nicknamed “Percy”—landed at the Jezero Crater. Scientists named the crater after a small village in Bosnia. Back on Earth, villagers in Jezero gathered in front of a video screen in their community school yard to cheer Percy’s landing.

The landing came after what NASA describes as “seven minutes of terror.” For those seven minutes, Percy was completely on its own. Flight controllers waited helplessly for the preprogrammed spacecraft to hit the thin Martian atmosphere. It raced through at 12,100 miles per hour. To slow its speed, the craft released a 70-foot parachute. A rocket-steered platform called a “sky crane” lowered the rover carefully to the planet’s surface.

It took 11 and a half minutes for Mission Control to get the signal confirming that Percy had touched down. The spacecraft sent two black-and-white photos of Mars’ surface. Former astronaut John Grunsfeld tweeted that Perseverance’s landing was “exactly the good news and inspiration we need right now.”

In celebration of Percy’s safe arrival on Mars, the Mars Doughnut landed for a day at Krispy Kreme on February 18. The doughnut was a sweet-tasting replica of the Red Planet.

Over the next two years, Percy will drill and collect rock samples from the soil on Mars. Those rocks will eventually be sent to Earth. “Now, the amazing science starts,” says NASA mission chief Thomas Zurbuchen.

Praise Him, Sun and Moon, praise Him all you shining stars! –– Psalm 148:3

In this illustration, the Perseverance rover nears the surface of Mars. (NASA/JPL-Caltech via AP)