Perseverance rover lands on Mars

By Ashley Strickland, Amanda Wills, Meg Wagner, Melissa Macaya and Veronica Rocha, CNN

Updated 6:21 p.m. ET, February 18, 2021
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4:09 p.m. ET, February 18, 2021

This is the first image Perseverance sent from Mars

NASA-JPL/Caltech
NASA-JPL/Caltech

Just minutes after landing on Mars, NASA's Perseverance rover beamed back this image to Earth. It is the first of many the rover will send while it's on its mission on the planet.

4:01 p.m. ET, February 18, 2021

NASA's rover sends its first tweet after landing

So, Perseverance isn't actually tweeting from Mars, per se, but humans back at NASA are.

Here's what the account tweeted shortly after landing:

3:56 p.m. ET, February 18, 2021

JUST IN: Perseverance rover has safely landed on Mars

NASA-JPL/Caltech
NASA-JPL/Caltech

The Perseverance rover just became NASA's fifth rover to safely land on the surface of Mars after surviving the "seven minutes of terror."

This is the most sophisticated rover the agency has ever sent to the Red Planet. It will gather data and look for signs of ancient life in a crater that once contained a lake about 3.9 billion years ago.

3:54 p.m. ET, February 18, 2021

The parachute has deployed

NASA-JPL/Caltech
NASA-JPL/Caltech

Perseverance's parachute has just deployed, and it has slowed its speed. It's very close to the surface.

3:49 p.m. ET, February 18, 2021

The "7 minutes of terror" have begun

Perseverance has just started what NASA refers to as the "seven minutes of terror." This is when the rover essentially has to land itself on Mars with no help from NASA, due to a one-way 11 minute time-delay.

The ground teams tell the spacecraft when to begin EDL (entry, descent and landing) and the spacecraft takes over from there — and mission control begins an agonizing wait.

The spacecraft hits the top of the Martian atmosphere moving at 12,000 miles per hour and has to slow down to zero miles per hour seven minutes later when the rover softly lands on the surface.

Here's a look at what happens during the final moments:

This illustration shows the events that occur in the final minutes of the nearly seven-month journey that NASA’s Perseverance rover takes to Mars.
This illustration shows the events that occur in the final minutes of the nearly seven-month journey that NASA’s Perseverance rover takes to Mars. NASA/JPL-Caltech

3:49 p.m. ET, February 18, 2021

The Perseverance rover has reached Mars

NASA/JPL-Caltech
NASA/JPL-Caltech

The cruise stage of Perseverance's journey has ended, and it has arrived at the Red Planet. This means the spacecraft will need to slam on the brakes to slow down from a speed of around 12,000 miles per hour.

Entry, descent and landing will begin soon.

3:43 p.m. ET, February 18, 2021

How we know the rover is OK

The Perseverance rover is sending "heartbeat tones" back to Earth to tell NASA's team it's healthy. However, it is now operating on its own millions of miles away.

3:41 p.m. ET, February 18, 2021

Here is what the rover is doing at Mars right now

It takes 11 minutes for the rover to send data from Mars back to Earth. In real rover time now, Perseverance is on its own and beginning its entry. However, we won't receive that data for a few more minutes.

3:41 p.m. ET, February 18, 2021

This is who you hear talking in the control room

NASA-JPL/Caltech
NASA-JPL/Caltech

Those voices you hear calling out the progress of the mission belong to NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory's Swati Mohan and Allen Chen.

Chen is the Mars 2020 entry, descent, and landing lead at JPL and Mohan is a guidance navigation control engineer.

Both have worked tirelessly on the mission, which all leads up to this big moment: landing on Mars.