New probe and drone on Mars
NASA's Perseverance rover has landed on Mars after a seven-month journey over nearly half a billion kilometres.
There was a tense 11 and a half minute wait after the probe entered the Martian atmosphere this morning, before a signal came back confirming the successful landing in the Jezero Crater.
“Touchdown confirmed, Perseverance safely on the surface of Mars, ready to begin seeking signs of past life,” flight controller Swati Mohan said.
The high-tech rover was quick to update its Twitter account, saying; “I'm safe on Mars. Perseverance will get you anywhere”.
The car-sized, plutonium-powered rover will now collect geological samples that will be brought back to Earth in about a decade. The new samples will be analysed for signs of ancient microscopic life. There are even plans for the probe to return to Earth in a joint NASA and ESA mission under development.
Jezero Crater is considered the most ambitious landing site of any Mars mission, but the chance of finding signs of life in the crater was seen as worth the risk.
Perseverance will also test a small Mars helicopter called Ingenuity, which will be the first powered aircraft to fly on another planet.
Ingenuity has the potential to scout sites to be visited by the rover, and will demonstrate the potential of such drones to explore difficult to access locations and support other missions.
Additionally, Perseverance carries an experiment called MOXIE that will manufacture oxygen, demonstrating technology that will support future crewed missions to Mars.
Rolling updates are available from NASA.