NASA landed a new robotic rover on Mars on Thursday, its most ambitious effort in decades to directly study whether there was ever life on the red planet. While the agency has landed other missions on Mars, the $2.7 billion robotic explorer named Perseverance carries a sophisticated set of scientific tools that will bring advanced capabilities to the search for life beyond our planet.
Perseverance was the third robotic visitor from Earth to arrive at the red planet this month. Last week, two other spacecraft, Hope from the United Arab Emirates and Tianwen-1 from China, entered orbit around Mars.
But NASA’s spacecraft did not go into orbit first. Instead it zipped along a direct path to the surface.
At 3:48 p.m. Eastern time, controllers at the mission operations center at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory near Pasadena, Calif., received word from Perseverance that it had entered the top of the Martian atmosphere at a speed of more than 12,000 miles per hour. The spacecraft was beginning the landing maneuvers that would bring it to a soft stop in just seven anxiety-drenched minutes. >>>