NASA Lands First Rover on Mars in Nearly a Decade

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After nearly 3 years of being alone on Mars, Curiosity finally has some new friends.

As far as we know, Mars was and is 100% occupied by robots.

However, that might soon change after the landing of the Perseverance rover on February 18th. Perseverance’s main goal is to look for signs of ancient life on Mars. Percy, as the rover has been fondly nicknamed by NASA, landed in Jezero Crater at 1:55 PM (MT). The crater is thought to be the site of a former lake, which, considering what we know about life on Earth, seems like a good place to search for signs of life on Mars.

Although Perseverance isn’t the first rover to explore the Red Planet, the mission itself included many firsts. The rover carried the first microphone to Mars, and NASA has since released some of the first sounds Percy heard while driving around (it mostly consists of wind noises like what one might hear on Earth, but it’s better than ominous alien voices chanting “Go away” or something like that). Additionally, Percy brought a guest to Mars: Ingenuity, a small helicopter that will take the first powered flight on another planet.

Less than 24 hours after the rover landed, NASA also released some of the first photos taken during Perseverance’s descent, landing, and initial exploration. Images taken during those stages and as Percy continues to explore Mars can be viewed here.

The first image by NASA’s Perseverance rover was taken soon after landing in Jezero Crater.

The name “Perseverance” was chosen, like every other rover as far back as Sojourner, in a nation-wide competition where children in grades K-12 wrote a brief essay explaining why the name they picked would be fitting for the rover. Previously, Perseverance was known simply as “Mars 2020” (because of its July 2020 launch date), until March of 2020, when NASA announced the winning name, picked from over 28,000 entries. Along with the winning rover name submitted by Virginia middle school student Alexander Mather, NASA also announced that the helicopter accompanying Percy would be named “Ingenuity.” The name was submitted by Alabama high school student Vaneeza Rupani as part of the rover-naming contest, but NASA decided the name was too good to pass up, so it was given to the helicopter.

Perseverance is the fifth rover that NASA has landed on Mars. The first was Sojourner in 1997; then Spirit and Opportunity, the twin rovers, in 2004; then Curiosity in 2012. Sojourner lived about 2 months, after which time NASA lost communications. Spirit became stuck in the sand after about 6 years on Mars, and Opportunity lived a record 15 years on Mars but became trapped in a dust storm that prevented its battery from recharging. Curiosity is still active on Mars.

Each rover has provided valuable new information about Mars and its history, and Perseverance is sure to follow in the footsteps– er, tracks, of each of the previous robotic explorers. For updates and more information on Percy and Ingenuity, visit mars.nasa.gov/mars2020/ or follow the rover on Twitter and Facebook @NASAPersevere.