Amid roaring applause, “Touchdown confirmed”, cheerfully exclaimed Dr Swati Mohan, guidance and control operations lead for NASA’s Mars 2020 mission, bringing to an end the anxious seven nailbiting moments.
Perseverance, NASA’s Mars mission launched seven months ago, whizzing through 472 million kilometres of interplanetary space, had kept its rendezvous with the Red Planet on February 18, 2021. At 2:25 am IST (3:55 pm US Eastern time), the Perseverance rover touched down intact in Jezero Crater, now barren ancient Martian lake, heralding a new era in Mars exploration.
Landing on Mars is a demanding task. About 60 per cent of missions sent to the Red Planet have failed. To add insult to injury, the edge of Jezero crater, the chosen spot for Perseverance’s landing, is geologically challenging. The place is full of steep cliffs, large boulders and sand dunes. The spacecraft needed to avoid these treacherous features to land in one piece. As it is hurling towards Mars, like a driver scanning for a parking bay in a busy parking lot, the craft has to inspect the terrain under its feet to choose a safe, flat spot to land.
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