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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.

Go deeper

Miriam Kramer, author of Space
Feb 16, 2021 - Science

Breaking down the role nuclear power could play in getting people to Mars

Artist's illustration of a nuclear propulsion system and habitat around Mars. Image: NASA

Nuclear power is a good bet to get people to and from Mars, according to a new report. However, there's still a long way to go before it's viable.

Why it matters: NASA has plans to send astronauts to Mars in the 2030s, but the technology needed for such an extreme mission is still in development.

Axios-Ipsos poll: People of color face more environmental threats

Expand chart
Data: Axios/Ipsos poll; Note: ±2.5% margin of error; Chart: Sara Wise/Axios

Americans of color are much less likely than white Americans to experience good air quality or tap water or enough trees or green space in their communities, and they're more likely to face noise pollution and litter, a new Axios-Ipsos poll finds.

The big picture: Our national survey shows Black and Hispanic Americans are more likely than their white counterparts to live near major highways or industrial or manufacturing plants — and to have dealt in the past year with water-boil notices or power outages lasting more than 24 hours.

15 hours ago - Health

FDA advisory panel recommends Pfizer boosters for those 65 and older

A healthcare worker prepares a dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech Covid-19 vaccine at the Key Biscayne Community Center on Aug. 24, 2021. Photo: Eva Marie Uzcategui/Bloomberg via Getty Images

A key Food and Drug Administration advisory panel on Friday overwhelmingly voted against recommending Pfizer vaccine booster shots for younger Americans, but unanimously recommended approving the third shots for individuals 65 and older, as well as those at high-risk of severe COVID-19.

Why it matters: While the votes are non-binding, and the FDA must still make a final decision, Friday's move pours cold water on the Biden administration's plan to begin administering boosters to most individuals who received the Pfizer vaccine later this month.