NASA rover lands on Mars to look for signs of ancient life

Author: The Associated Press
Published: Updated:
This photo made available by NASA shows the first image sent by the Perseverance rover showing the surface of Mars, just after landing in the Jezero crater, on Thursday, Feb. 18, 2021. (NASA via AP)

A NASA rover streaked through the orange Martian sky and landed on the planet Thursday, accomplishing the riskiest step yet in an epic quest to bring back rocks that could answer whether life ever existed on Mars.

Ground controllers at the space agency’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, cheered and exchanged fist bumps and high-fives in triumph — and relief — on receiving confirmation that the six-wheeled Perseverance had touched down on the red planet, long a deathtrap for incoming spacecraft.

It took a tension-filled 11 1/2 minutes for the signal to reach Earth.

“Touchdown confirmed! Perseverance safely on the surface of Mars,” flight controller Swati Mohan announced.

Heather Preston, director of the Planetarium at the Calusa Nature Center and Planetarium in Fort Myers, has always had her eyes on the stars and spent the last month educating visitors about Mars in preparation for this land.

“Every time we get a mission on the ground, we’re that much closer to getting humans on the ground, too. And eventually, that is going to happen,” she said.

“Looking at Mars now and its past can tell us what we need to know about Earth.”

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.

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