The space agency says the six-wheeled Perseverance hurtled through the thin, orange atmosphere and settled onto the surface Thursday in the mission's riskiest maneuver yet. Mars has long been a deathtrap for incoming spacecraft. Perseverance will collect geological samples that will be brought back to Earth in about a decade to be analyzed for signs of ancient microscopic life.
Scientists cheered on Thursday, as NASA's Mars Rover, Perseverance made a successful landing on the Red Planet. The name proved to true, as the rover, accomplished the difficult task of landing on Mars. Moments after landing, the rover sent back its first images of Mars. Scientists are hoping to answer the burning question, was life ever-present on Mars?
"We've been thinking about the possibility of life on other planets for hundreds of years now. And this is our first opportunity to perhaps find it," said Astrophysicist, Hakeem Oluseyi.
This trip into outer space, could solve the mystery if life exists, or has ever existed on another planet.
"Three-and-a-half billion years ago, when life was just getting a toehold here on Earth, Mars was wet and warm, and very similar an environment to that which Earth has. So there's a possibility that early Mars was habitable for life and that life could have also started on the red planet, said Adam Steltzner, Mars 2020 Chief Engineer.
To solve the mystery of life in outer space, NASA scientists created the Perseverance, the most advanced robot ever sent into space. This is part of a mission that has been over eight years in the making, with a price tag of 2.7 billion dollars. The rover is headed for an ancient dried up lake called, Jezero. Scientists say it's over 3 billion years old.
"Based on everything we know about that environment, it was habitable. Life should have been there. And so I think we are very optimistic, I'm very optimistic, that we will find signs of ancient life there if they ever existed on Mars," said Katie Stack Morgan, JPL Research Scientist.
After traveling, 300 million miles in seven months, it is now down to work.
Ultimately, the goal is to retrieve rock samples and bring them back to earth and test for extraterrestrial life.
"If we can find evidence of life on Mars, then we are going to realize that we are a bigger part of the life story. It is not just an Earth story, it's a universe story," said Oluseyi.
After 203 days and 300 million miles, our @NASAPersevere landed on Mars at 3:55 p.m. EST on Feb. 18. After spending some time checking out its systems, it'll be rolling across the Red Planet, looking for signs of ancient Martian life. https://t.co/3Tr7doXdJS pic.twitter.com/FhwoXz5l4n— NASA (@NASA) February 19, 2021
The landing marks the third visit to Mars in just over a week. Two spacecraft from the United Arab Emirates and China swung into orbit around Mars on successive days last week. All three missions lifted off in July to take advantage of the close alignment of Earth and Mars, traveling some 300 million miles in nearly seven months.
Perseverance, the biggest, most advanced rover ever sent by NASA, became the ninth spacecraft to successfully land on Mars, every one of them from the U.S.