MIAMI (CBSMiami) — A nearly 300-million-mile journey came to an end Thursday as NASA’s Perseverance Rover successfully landed on Mars Thursday, beginning a historic mission full of firsts.
Minutes after it touched down, the rover transmitted its first photo of the Martian surface back to Earth, signaling it’s ready to begin its mission.READ MORE: Tropical Storm Claudette Over Atlantic, Heading Away From U.S.
— NASA's Perseverance Mars Rover (@NASAPersevere) February 18, 2021
“Part of what we’re doing is kind of paving the way for human exploration,” says engineer Gregory Villar.
Villar is part of the team that has spent years plotting the riskiest moment of the Mars mission: the landing, a seven-minute white knuckle event.
Mission managers say that landing went entirely as planned.READ MORE: Supreme Court Sides With Student-Athletes In Battle Over NCAA Limits On Certain Benefits
Perseverance successfully blasted off from Kennedy Space Center back in July and traveled 292.5 million miles on its journey from Earth.
With Perseverance now on Mars, the car-sized robotic spacecraft will begin exploring Jezero Crater, the site of an ancient lake that existed 3.9 billion years ago, and search for microfossils in the rocks and soil there. It will search for signs of long-dead microscopic organisms that may have thrived on the planet billions of years ago. To do that, Perseverance will drill into the ground, collecting Martian rock and dust samples NASA hopes to one day return to Earth.
“The Mars Sample Return Project, of course, is probably the most challenging thing we’ve ever attempted within NASA,” says Jennifer Trosper, Perseverance deputy project manager. “We are hoping to learn if life ever existed in the ancient past on Mars.”
Perseverance is also tasked with another first: exploring the planet’s surface from the air thanks to a drone helicopter named Ingenuity.
With their numerous cameras and sensors, the drone and rover will study the climate and geology of Mars, helping scientists as they plot manned missions to the planet in the years ahead.
NASA’S latest trip to Mars is one of three ongoing missions to the red planet. Both China and the United Arab Emirates also launched spacecrafts to the planet last July.MORE NEWS: Amazon Has First Day Of Summer Deals During 'Prime Day'