“This landing is one of those pivotal moments for NASA, the United States, and space exploration globally – when we know we are on the cusp of discovery and sharpening our pencils, so to speak, to rewrite the textbooks.”

NASA administrator Steve Jurczyk on the landing of the Perseverance space rover on Mars to mine for signs of ancient life. Only about half of previous expeditions to the Red Planet have been successful.

  • It took 11 nail-biting minutes for NASA mission control to receive word of victory—after the rover landed by slowing from 12,000 mph to just 2 in “seven minutes of terror.”
  • Perseverance brought “hidden gems” on its microchips: the names of nearly 11 million Americans and over 150 school children’s essays who were finalists in the contest to name it. A chassis plate also holds a tribute to frontline workers in their fight against the pandemic. More here.
  • The U.S. joins the United Arab Emirates and China with current Mars missions; both have vessels that reached Mars over the last two weeks and are currently orbiting the Red Planet. China is expected to attempt a Mars landing in May/June.
  • “Are we alone in this sort of vast cosmic desert, just flying through space, or is life much more common? … We’re really on the verge of being able to potentially answer these enormous questions.” NASA Deputy Project Scientist Ken Wiliford.

WHY IT MATTERS: The Associated Press describes Perseverance as “the biggest, most advanced rover ever sent by NASA.” NASA is hopeful this mission will not only shed light about life beyond Earth but pave the way for human exploration of Mars.