PASADENA, Calif., February 18, 2021 (NASA PR) — Cheers erupted in mission control at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory as controllers confirmed that NASA’s Perseverance rover, with the Ingenuity Mars Helicopter attached to its belly, has touched down safely on Mars. Engineers are analyzing the data flowing back from the spacecraft.
“Perseverance is NASA’s most ambitious Mars rover mission yet, focused scientifically on finding out whether there was ever any life on Mars in the past,” said Thomas Zurbuchen, associate administrator for the Science Mission Directorate at NASA Headquarters in Washington. “To answer this question, the landing team will have its hands full getting us to Jezero Crater – the most challenging Martian terrain ever targeted for a landing.”
Jezero is a basin where scientists believe an ancient river flowed into a lake and deposited sediments in a fan shape known as a delta. Scientists think the environment here was likely to have preserved signs of any life that gained a foothold billions of years ago – but Jezero also has steep cliffs, sand dunes, and boulder fields.
Landing on Mars is difficult – only about 50% of all previous Mars landing attempts have succeeded – and these geological features make it even more so. The Perseverance team built on lessons from previous touchdowns and employed new technologies that enabled the spacecraft to target its landing site more accurately and avoid hazards autonomously.
Perseverance transmitted two photos taken by engineering cameras back to Earth after it landed. The images were low resolution and partially obscured by dust in stirred up by the landing.
Over the coming days, engineers will also check on the health of the rover and deploy the remote sensing mast (otherwise known as its “head”) so it can take more pictures.
The Perseverance team will then take more than a month to thoroughly inspect the rover and load new flight software to prepare for its search for ancient life on Mars. During the same period, the Ingenuity Mars Helicopter team will be making sure their small but mighty robot is prepared for the first attempt at controlled, powered aerodynamic flight on another planet.
“The Ingenuity team will be on the edge of our seats with the Perseverance team on landing day,” said MiMi Aung, the Ingenuity project manager at JPL. “We can’t wait until the rover and the helicopter are both safely on the surface of Mars and ready for action.”
A key objective of Perseverance’s mission on Mars is astrobiology, including the search for signs of ancient microbial life. The rover will characterize the planet’s geology and past climate, pave the way for human exploration of the Red Planet, and will be the first mission to collect and cache Martian rock and sediment for later return to Earth.
Subsequent NASA missions, in cooperation with ESA (European Space Agency), would send spacecraft to Mars to collect these sealed samples from the surface and return them to Earth for in-depth analysis.
The Mars 2020 mission is part of a larger NASA initiative that includes missions to the Moon as a way to prepare for human exploration of the Red Planet. NASA will establish a sustained human presence on and around the Moon through NASA’s Artemis lunar exploration plans.
JPL, a division of Caltech in Pasadena, California, manages the Mars 2020 Perseverance mission and the Ingenuity Mars Helicopter technology demonstration for NASA.
The press kit for Perseverance’s landing can be found at:
A press kit for Ingenuity can be found at: