Orlando, Fla. — A 292,000,000 mile long journey for NASA’s Perseverance Rover has come to an end on the surface of Mars.
Thursday’s precise landing on the Red Planet was the culmination of several years of hard work by NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in Pasadena, California.
The car-sized rover originally launched last year from Cape Canaveral at the end of July.
On Monday, NASA debuted new high-definition video of the successful landing.
David Gruel, who is the camera lead with the JPL, explained the Perseverance has a total of 23 cameras onboard that sent back video from the perspective of the spacecraft landing.
Director Mike Watkins said this is the first time they’ve been able to capture an event like the landing of the spacecraft on Mars.
Audio captured by the rover’s microphones was also captured and released to the public on Monday.
Perseverance landed near the Jezero Crater to search for signs of ancient life.
More than 3.5 billion years ago, NASA says, river channels spilled over the Jezero Crater wall and created a lake.
“This will be the most ancient landing site that we have accessed so far in all of our years of Martian discovery,” Dr. Michelle Minitti, co-investigator for the Mars 2020 Rover, tells WDBO.
Check out this cool interactive map of Jezero Crater from NASA:
How did Perseverance land?
At around 3:48 p.m. EST on Feb. 18, the rover descended from orbit during what is known as “seven minutes of terror.”
It’s dubbed this because there are so many things had to go exactly right for a successful landing.
The spacecraft had to decelerate from 12,000 mph to less than 2 mph during that seven minutes.
To pull this off, the spacecraft first rushed through the planet’s thin atmosphere.
Once through, a supersonic parachute inflated which brought the craft’s descent down to hundreds of miles per hour.
Then, the spacecraft sheds the parachute and comes down on rockets as it continues to slow and near the rocky surface of Mars.
“The rover basically has a jetpack,” Minitti says.
All of those steps went off without a hitch before the craft began maneuvering between steep cliffs, sand dunes and large boulders.
When it reached about 40ft from the surface, the rover lowered down on a chord, called the ‘Sky Crane.’
The rover softly touched the ground and the “jetpack” cut the chord and flew away.
How do I re-watch the landing?
NASA posted a livestream from its JPL mission control building.
Watch a Spanish live stream here.
The spacecraft touched down at exactly 3:55 p.m. EST.
Since the rover had pre-programmed landing instructions and autonomy, Perseverance landed safely on Mars without mission control.
Check out a 360-degree view of NASA’s mission control here:
Since Mars is 127 million miles from Earth, it took 11 minutes for signal to reach Mars.
By the time JPL engineers received confirmation that the spacecraft has entered the Martian atmosphere, Perseverance was already on the surface.
The first black and white images from the rover arrived shortly after landing.
What will Perseverance do once on the surface of Mars?
Perseverance will study the Martian environment and collect rock and soil samples which it will deliver back to Earth in about a decade.
It’s carrying a small helicopter drone named Ingenuity on its belly which will test powered flight on another world for the first time.
Perseverance is also carrying a little extra cargo.
Included are silicon chips containing 10.9 million names from the “Send Your Name To Mars” campaign, along with essays from 155 contest winners.
There’s also a plaque paying tribute to the fight against the COVID-19 pandemic.
A camera on board called the Mastcam-Z comes with a message about the joys of discovery in various languages.
Also on board is a special coin made of helmet visor material and a piece of Martian meteorite, making its way back home after a very long round-trip.
On board are two microphones onboard will record the landing and sounds on the Red Planet.
Audio files from Perseverance will be sent back to Earth and can be accessed online.