Over the course of several years, Perseverance will collect samples that will be sent back to Earth for lab analysis.
NASA’s Perseverance rover has safely landed on Mars after its 292.5m-mile journey from Earth, at 3:55 PM ET on February 18.
‘Percy’, as the spacecraft is affectionately called at mission control, sent back its first images of the landing site immediately after touchdown, which shows the rover’s shadow on the surface of its landing site of Jezero Crater.
The rover will explore Jezero Crater, the site of an ancient lake that existed 3.9bn years ago, and search for microfossils in the rocks and soil there. Follow-up missions will return samples of this site collected by Perseverance to Earth by the 2030s.
Acting NASA Administrator Steve Jurczyk, said: “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.
“The Mars 2020 Perseverance mission embodies our nation’s spirit of persevering even in the most challenging of situations, inspiring, and advancing science and exploration. The mission itself personifies the human ideal of persevering toward the future and will help us prepare for human exploration of the Red Planet in the 2030s.”
The rover will also start deploying equipment such as a high-gain antenna and the mast on which several instruments are mounted.