AFTER a nearly seven-month journey through space, Perseverance -- the largest and the most advanced rover NASA has ever sent to another world -- successfully touched down on the surface of Mars on Friday in a nail-biting landing that marks its first step in the search for signs of ancient microbial life on the Red Planet. Packed with groundbreaking technology, the Mars 2020 mission launched on July 30, last year, from Cape Canaveral Space Force Station in Florida, US. The rover streaked through the Martian atmosphere and landed safely inside the vast Jezero Crater on Mars, after traversing 472 million kilometres from the Earth, the US space agency said.
The touchdown of the rover marks an ambitious first step in the effort to collect Mars samples and return them to Earth, it said. “This landing is one of those pivotal moments for NASA, the US, 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,” said acting NASA Administrator Steve Jurczyk. “The mission itself personifies the human ideal of persevering towards the future and will help us prepare for human exploration of the Red Planet,” Jurczyk said in a statement. About the size of a car, 1,026-kilogramme “robotic geologist and astrobiologist” will undergo several weeks of testing before it begins its two-year science investigation of Mars’ Jezero Crater, NASA said.
While the rover will investigate the rock and sediment of Jezero’s ancient lakebed and river delta to characterise the region’s geology and past climate, a fundamental part of its mission is astrobiology, including the search for signs of ancient microbial life, it said. To that end, the Mars Sample Return campaign, being planned by NASA and European Space Agency (ESA), will allow scientists on Earth to study samples collected by Perseverance to search for definitive signs of past life using instruments too large and complex to send to the Red Planet.
Indian-American scientist Swati Mohan plays key role
Feb 19 (PTI)
AS PERSEVERANCE, the NASA rover, landed on the Martian surface Friday, millions of miles away in the US space agency’s control room, a woman’s voice rang out: “Touchdown confirmed!” The announcement was from Indian-American scientist Swati Mohan who leads the guidance, navigation, and control operations of NASA’s Mars 2020 mission. In her role as flight controller, Mohan played a pivotal role in the landing of the historic craft. Mohan was the first to confirm that the rover had successfully touched down on the Martian surface after surviving a particularly tricky plunge through the atmosphere of the Red Planet. “Touchdown confirmed! Perseverance safely on the surface of Mars, ready to begin seeking signs of past life,” Mohan announced, prompting her colleagues at NASA to fist-bump and break into celebrations. Mohan, who emigrated from India to the US when she was only a year old, said the Guidance, Navigation, and Controls Operations (GN&C) are the “eyes and ears” of the spacecraft. Commenting on her team’s role in mission, Mohan said their job during the cruise phase heading towards Mars was to figure out how the spacecraft is oriented, and make sure it is pointed correctly in space -- “solar arrays to sun, antenna to Earth, and maneuver the spacecraft to get it where we want to go”, she is quoted as saying in her bio page on the NASA website.