NASA just successfully landed another robot on Mars! After the “seven minutes of terror”, where the spacecraft had to perform the EDL (entry, landing and descent) maneuver entirely using its programmed automation, the Perseverance rover successfully touched down on the Mars.
After the spacecraft hit the Martian atmosphere, it oriented itself toward the landing site, and deployed a parachute to slow down its descent. The heat shield then was successfully jettisoned, and the craft found a safe place to land.
The robot was then lowered onto the Martian surface via a sky crane on a flying platform launched from the spacecraft, just like its predecessor Curiosity in 2012.
The rover’s design looks incredibly similar to Curiosity’s, and upon first glance the two rovers look almost identical. The dimensions of the two car-sized robots are the same (2.9m x 2.7m x 2.2m), although Perseverance has about 150 kg more mass than Curiosity. This is because Perseverance is carrying more equipment, including a sample collection system, and a helicopter drone called Ingenuity. The drone will be the first time we’ve ever attempted powered flight on another world, and it runs on Linux!
The rover landed at Jezero Crater, which was chosen because it was a prime candidate for testing if the Martian surface has any evidence of life, past or present. This is because the crater is believed to have once been full of water, and if there is any evidence of life that is or used to be there, this crater is our best bet at finding it.
A hearty congratulations to NASA for successfully pulling off another complex landing and plopping down yet another of our robots on Mars!