Congratulations NASA, and welcome to your new home, Perseverance! NASA's historic Perseverance rover, and its sidekick helicopter Ingenuity, have successfully landed on the surface of the Red Planet, kickstarting a new generation of exploration on Mars.
Perseverance may be the latest plucky Mars rover to successfully land on Mars, but it has some tricks up its sleeve that no other rover has managed before. It doesn't just have "eyes" in the form of spectacular cameras to document its travel on Mars, it has "ears" too. Yes, Perseverance comes armed with microphones, meaning in a few days we may have the first video and audio of a Mars landing.
Assuming all has gone as it should, the mic should pick up everything from the sound of the mortar releasing the parachute that carried the rover to the surface, to the landing engines, and the sound of the rover's wheels crunching on the Martian gravel.
In the meantime, NASA has shared Perseverance's first image of its new home.
Perseverance is, of course, also equipped with a wealth of tools to carry out its important scientific tasks, including the hunt for microbial life. It will even scoop up soil samples and send them back to Earth sometime this decade. With Perseverance's help, scientists on Earth will unravel more of Mars's mysteries – potentially even if Mars has ever or could ever host life.
The helicopter Ingenuity will make history by attempting the first-ever flight in another planet's atmosphere. The drone-copter has a wingspan of 1.2 meters (4 feet) and is expected to perform five flights during its 30-day mission, sometime early in the rover’s mission. Although the helicopter will assist Perseverance in finding interesting targets, its primary mission is to simply demonstrate that the technology is viable on Mars. If successful, future drones could be used to scout ahead for astronauts, or explore dangerous terrain.
Described by NASA as the "biggest, heaviest, cleanest, and most sophisticated six-wheeled robotic geologist ever launched into space," Perseverance brings the current number of Mars robotic inhabitants up to three (waves at Curiosity and InSight), though in just three months that number could be four if China's Tianwen-1 successfully lands its as-yet-unnamed rover sometime in May or June.
Join us again then for another nail-biting "7 minutes of terror" to see if the population of Mars is going to grow a little larger.