NASA's Perseverance rover has safely landed on Mars after its 292.5 million-mile journey from Earth, the agency confirmed.
The rover sent back its first images of the landing site immediately after landing.
The rover has been on a nearly 300 million-mile journey since it left Earth more than 6 months ago.
Humanity's love affair with Mars is an enduring one, full of wonder about the possibility of life on this mysterious neighboring planet. This historic mission can search for evidence that could give us the answer.
Perseverance is full of firsts. The search for signs of ancient life on Mars. The first helicopter fly on another planet. The first recordings of sound on the red planet.
NASA's most sophisticated rover to date has a packed agenda for the next few years.
The rover will explore Jezero Crater, the site of an ancient lake that existed 3.9 billion 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.
Along for the ride with Perseverance is an experiment to fly a helicopter, called Ingenuity, on another planet for the first time.
Once the rover has landed on Mars, you can follow its journey using an interactive map. Any raw images sent back by the rover this week and going forward will also be immediately available to the public on NASA's site.
Perseverance is NASA's ninth landing on Mars and the agency's fifth rover. In order to land, it had to go through the infamous "seven minutes of terror."
The one-way time it takes for radio signals to travel from Earth to Mars is about 11 minutes, which means the seven minutes it takes for the spacecraft to land on Mars occurs without any help or intervention from NASA teams on Earth. This rover is the heaviest NASA has ever attempted to land, weighing in at over a metric ton.
The spacecraft hit the top of the Martian atmosphere moving at 12,000 miles per hour and had to slow down to 1.7 miles per hour seven minutes later when the rover softly landed on the surface. The spacecraft's heat shield endured peak heating of 2,370 degrees Fahrenheit.
Perseverance targeted a 28-mile-wide ancient lake bed and river delta, the most challenging site yet for a NASA spacecraft landing on Mars. Rather than being flat and smooth, the small landing site is littered with sand dunes, steep cliffs, boulders and small craters. The spacecraft has two upgrades -- called Range Trigger and Terrain-Relative Navigation -- to navigate this difficult and hazardous site.
Range Trigger told the 70.5-foot-wide parachute when to deploy based on the spacecraft's position 240 seconds after entering the atmosphere. After the parachute deployed, the heat shield detached.
The rover's Terrain-Relative Navigation acts like a second brain, using cameras to take pictures of the ground as it rapidly approaches and determines the safest spot to land. It can shift the landing spot by up to 2,000 feet, according to NASA.
The back shell and parachute separated after the heat shield was discarded. The Mars landing engines, which include eight retrorockets, fired to slow the descent to 1.7 miles per hour -- or the average walking speed of a human.
Then, the famed sky crane maneuver that landed the Curiosity rover occurred. Nylon cords lowered the rover 25 feet below the descent stage. After the rover touched down on the Martian surface, the cords detached and the descent stage flew away and landed at a safe distance.
NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter relayed data from the rover throughout.The orbiters around Mars can also send back any images, either taken by the rover or the orbiters, to Earth.
The agency's Odyssey orbiter will fly over the landing site and communicate with the rover to confirm its health about 7:27 p.m. ET, according to NASA. Then, the European Space Agency's ExoMars Trace Gas Orbiter will also do a check-in with Perseverance and return any images and data to Earth at 9:36 p.m. ET.
Now that the rover has landed, Perseverance's two-year mission will begin. First, it will go through a "checkout" period.
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 Thomas Zurbuchen, associate administrator for NASA's Science Mission Directorate.
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's sophisticated science instruments will not only help in the hunt for fossilized microbial life, but also expand our knowledge of Martian geology and its past, present, and future," said Ken Farley, project scientist for Mars 2020, in a statement.
The path Perseverance will traverse is about 15 miles long, an "epic journey" that will take years, Farley said. What scientists could discover about Mars, though, is worth the journey. To accomplish its goals, Perseverance will drive a little less than 0.1 mile per hour, three times faster than previous rovers.
Perseverance also carries instruments that could help further exploration on Mars in the future, like MOXIE, the Mars Oxygen In-Situ Resource Utilization Experiment. This experiment, about the size of a car battery, will attempt to convert Martian carbon dioxide into oxygen.
Not only could this help NASA scientists learn how to produce rocket fuel on Mars, but also oxygen that could be used during future human exploration of the red planet.
Disney is following in the footsteps of Warner Bros. with its upcoming animated film release.
The company will release its Kelly Marie Tran film Raya and the Last Dragon at the same time on both Disney+ and movie theaters starting March 5.
The film is part of the streaming site's Premier Access, which means Disney+ subscribers will be subject to a nearly $30 rental fee to see the upcoming film, according to Variety.
The move is similar to Disney's release of Mulan on its platform with subscribers paying $29.99 to rent the film.
Disney has already premiered Artemis Fowl on the streaming platform and plans to release its Pixar animated film Soul on Disney+ on Christmas Day at no additional cost.
Raya and the Last Dragon features the voice of Tran, 31, as Raya, who must track down the last dragon to save the kingdom of Kumandra in ancient Asia against monsters known as Druun. Awkwafina will also star in the film.
Warner Bros. broke precedent earlier this month when it revealed it would release 17 films on its streaming platform, HBO Max, and in movie theaters in 2021.
Those films include Dune, The Matrix 4, Suicide Squad 2, Space Jam: A New Legacy, Tom and Jerry, and Lin-Manuel Miranda's musical film adaptation of In The Heights.
Warner Bros.' strategy with its 2021 film slate is the same as its Wonder Woman 1984: all the films released next year will be available to HBO Max subscribers exclusively for one month. After one month, the newly released films will leave the platform and continue to be available in movie theaters in the U.S. and internationally.
Raya and the Last Dragon debuts in theaters and on Disney+ on March 5, 2021.
An Air Force Global Strike Command unarmed Minuteman III intercontinental ballistic missile launches during an operation test at 11:49 p.m. PT Feb. 23, 2021, at Vandenberg Air Force Base, Calif. ICBM test launches demonstrate the U.S. nuclear enterprise is safe, secure, effective and ready to defend the United States and its allies. ICBMs provide the U.S. and its allies the necessary deterrent capability to maintain freedom to operate and navigate globally in accordance with international laws and norms.
VANDENBERG AIR FORCE BASES, Calif. - A missile test from Vandenberg Air Force Base is said to have been successful, according to the 30th Space Wing at the base.
Air Force Global Strike Command launched an unarmed Minuteman III intercontinental ballistic missile at 11:49 p.m. Tuesday. The ICBM launch tests the United States weapons systems.
“This first launch of the year demonstrates our ability to provide safe, secure range operations to our launch partners while maintaining a continuous state of readiness,” said Col. Joseph Tringe from the 30th Space Wing. “The outstanding teamwork of the Airmen and Guardians here at Vandenberg is a true testament to the future of space operations on the Western Range and our ability to defend the United States and our allies.”
The missile traveled approximately 4,200 miles to a test range in the Marshall Islands. And reached a speed of more than 15,000 miles per hour.