By Isaac Akugizibwe
KIU, Main Campus -The Perseverance rover, finally landed safely on planet Mars on Thursday, February 18, 2021. This was NASA’s most ambitious effort in decades to directly study whether there was ever life on the red planet
The spacecraft’s successful journey to the red planet extends the American record of safe landings on Mars to six. Mars is currently 126 million miles from Earth. Radio signals, travelling at the speed of light, take more than 11 minutes to travel from there to here.
"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," said acting NASA Administrator Steve Jurczyk.
US A President Joe Biden called Jurczyk and said, "Congratulations, man," and shared his congratulations to the thousands of people involved in the mission. Perseverance will capture images of its surroundings and send them back, unfold its "head" and take more pictures while going through some health checkups with engineers.
Teams on Earth will go through a month of inspections, software downloads, and preparations for roving.
The helicopter team will make sure Ingenuity is safe, healthy, and ready to fly, "a true extraterrestrial Wright Brothers moment," according to Zurbuchen.
Over a process that takes about 10 days, the rover will drop the helicopter on the surface of Mars and roll away from it. The little 4-pound helicopter will have to survive frigid nights on Mars, keep itself warm and charge itself using solar panels. Then, it will be ready for its first flight, which will last about 20 seconds.
"The Ingenuity team will be on the edge of our seats with the Perseverance team on landing day," said Mimi Aung, the Ingenuity project manager. "We can't wait until the rover and the helicopter are both safely on the surface of Mars and ready for action."
Perseverance will search for evidence of ancient life and study Mars' climate and geology and collect samples that will eventually be returned to Earth by the 2030s. Perseverance will also do things no rover has ever attempted on Mars and pave the way for humans.