27 de febrero de 2021
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Perseverance robot rover touches down safely on Martian surface

Miami, Feb 18 (efe-epa).- The Perseverance space probe has landed safely on Mars after successfully passing through the expected "seven minutes of terror" during which it temporarily went out of radio contact with Earth upon entering the thin atmosphere of the Red Planet and descending to the surface, parachuting onto the rocky terrain inside a crater called Jezero, NASA confirmed Thursday.

The rover touched down on Martian soil at 20:56 GMT, according to the US space agency, making it the fifth such vehicle to be positioned to explore Earth's neighboring planet, with the aim of this mission being to look for signs of past life there.

Scientists think that the Jezero crater, which is 45 kilometers (28 miles) wide, was a giant lake billions of years ago, and if water was there in the past, there might also have been life.

Five minutes after landing on Mars, Perseverance was ready to begin exploring its surroundings and transmitted the first image of the surface that was then posted onto the robot's official Twitter account with the message: "Hello, world. My first look at my forever home."

The six-wheeled vehicle - nicknamed "Percy" and which measures about three meters (10 feet) long, weighing 1,025 kilograms (about 2,255 pounds) - will spend the next two years looking for signs of past microbiotic life on Mars and will collect selected samples of rocks and sediments to be transported back to Earth by another unmanned Mars mission in the late 2020s.

The robot descended to the Martian surface after reducing its speed from 20,000 km per hour (12,400 mph) with the aid of an aerial device that allowed it to slow down gradually, an operation that NASA scientists had said was one of the most dangerous parts of the mission.

"What ... an amazing team to work through all the adversity and all the challenges that go with landing a rover on Mars, plus the challenges of Covid. Just an amazing accomplishment," NASA's interim administrator, Steve Jurczyk, said shortly after the probe landed.

Perseverance carries two microphones, which for the first time will record the sound of the wind on Mars, and a four-footed drone helicopter weighing less than 2 kg (4.4 lb.) and called Ingenuity Mars that will try to make the first controlled, motorized flight in the Martian atmosphere, which is many times thinner than the air on Earth.

The rover will catalog the geology and the climate of Mars, and - to do that - it is carrying drills that will bore into rocks to extract about 30 cylindrical or tube-like rock cores looking kind of like cigarettes, some of which scientists intend to bring back to Earth on the joint robotic NASA-European Space Agency mission scheduled to be sent to Mars later this decade.

In addition, Perseverance will pave the way for future human exploration beyond the Moon.

EFE

Contenido relacionado

Nasa's Tony Carro: Perseverance hopes to find out if we are alone in universe

Carmen Rodríguez

Madrid, Feb 18 (efe-epa).- The Mars rover Perseverance will land on the Red Planet on Thursday night as it begins the search for traces of life that, if found, could mean that there could be advanced life on other planets, Nasa’s delegate in Spain, Tony Carro, tells Efe in an interview.

QUESTION: After a seven month-journey, Perseverance will land, without any assistance from Earth. Is this one of the toughest parts of the mission?

ANSWER: It’s a very, very complicated mission because it gets into orbit at an altitude of about 100 kilometers and a speed of about 20,000 kilometers per hour, and from there it has to get to the ground in about 7 or 8 minutes -- what they call ‘seven minutes of terror’.

It involves decelerating (...) by means of parachutes, then retro rockets, what they call a sky crane, which the rover is hanging from another part that has rockets. So it's very, very complicated.

Everything has to work out perfectly -- Nasa has already landed on Mars eight times, it’s not the first time, although they used different methods.

Q: And when will we know how it went?

A: The first transmission from the Rover will come through the Robledo de Chavela station (in Spain), where Nasa has one of its Deep Space Network centers.

The landing will be at 21:43 CET, but we will not know anything until about 12 minutes later, because the signal has a few minutes’ delay.

When Perseverance will be descending, it will send direct signals back to Earth, informing us that the parachute has opened, the engines are working, but they will also send data with details of another Nasa mission which is orbiting Mars, for later analysis.

Q: Perseverance will search for traces of life on the red planet, but what are the other objectives of Nasa's Mars2020 mission?

A: The search for signs of life is one of the important reasons, but we also want to continue to study its geology, its climate and prepare for future manned missions to Mars.

Q: The landing and operations site will be the Jezero crater -- what's so special about it?

A: Mars possibly had life before and previous Nasa missions, such as the Curiosity rover, determined areas where there could possibly have been some kind. We are talking about very basic organisms, not intelligent life.

The Jezero crater looks like a river had passed through it: there was sediment, possibly caused by a river, which possibly means there was life in the past.

Q: How would you feel if Perseverance finds traces of life?

A: If, among the many millions of planets, Earth was the only one where life developed, it would mean we are the exception. But if it also developed on Mars, there are many possibilities that there is life, perhaps even advanced life, in other places, and then that is a great answer to one of humanity’s great questions: are we alone or not?

Q: With this mission, in some way, you would try to answer the question of whether we are alone.

A: That's one of the primary things. The previous missions determined that Jezero crater had a lot of possibilities, because we are confident that there was water in the past.

Life as we understand it develops with energy, with water, with organic matter, and it's very possible that there might have been life there; that's why it was chosen. Among the many sites that were looked at, this seemed the most likely. EFE-EPA

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