There was much jubilation at NASA yesterday as the signal came back to indicate that the car-sized rover had survived its ‘seven minutes of terror’ and touched down safely on the Martian surface.
Its new home – Jezero Crater – was chosen because millions of years ago it was believed to have been flooded with water, making it an ideal place to look for evidence of ancient alien life.
Another important part of the mission will be the demonstration of the Mars helicopter Ingenuity – a small drone that has hitched a ride to Mars in the belly of the rover.
Once deployed, it will carry out a series of test flights – the first ever undertaken on another world.
The rover will also be tasked with collecting samples of soil and leaving them in special caches for a future rover to come and retrieve as part of an ambitious sample-return mission.
Suffice to say, we should see some very exciting discoveries on Mars over the next few years.
To begin with however, the team at NASA will be carefully checking that everything on the rover is working as it should while preparing to power up its various systems.
A limited number of black-and-white images taken by the rover’s engineering cameras have already surfaced, however we should see some much more impressive photographs in the near future.