Feb 18, 2021 - Science

NASA's Perseverance rover lands on Mars

A false-color image of the Perseverance rover's landing site, Jezero Crater. The image shows a delta fanning out in purple, with other parts of the image shaded in grey, green and yellow.

Perseverance's landing site. Photo: NASA/JPL-Caltech/ASU

NASA's Perseverance rover — designed to further the hunt for past life on Mars — successfully touched down on the Red Planet Thursday.

Why it matters: Mars was once a relatively warm, wet and habitable world, and Perseverance — nicknamed Percy — could help NASA figure out if it was inhabited billions of years ago.

What's happening: Perseverance landed in Jezero Crater at the site of what scientists think was once a river delta, thought to be one of the best places to hunt for past life.

  • The rover will now go through a series of checkouts before it begins roaming the planet and searching for interesting rocks to study.
  • Perseverance comes equipped with multiple instruments, including one designed to create oxygen from carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, which might one day be used by human explorers.

The big picture: Perseverance completes the trio of missions from three different nations that launched to Mars in July and successfully arrived this month.

  • The United Arab Emirates' Hope probe and China's Tianwen-1 mission are both orbiting the planet now. China's spacecraft is expected to release a rover down to the surface in the coming months.

What's next: Perseverance is equipped with sample tubes that it will fill with the most interesting looking rocks for an eventual return to Earth on a future mission, expected to launch in 2026.

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