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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4:52 p.m. ET, February 18, 2021

Beep boop: When you'll hear from the rover next

The NASA team working on the Perseverance mission will give its next update at 5:30 p.m. ET today. We will hear from them again Friday at 1 p.m. and Monday at 2 p.m.

We will likely see more images and learn other cool insights the rover has gathered so far. Any information like this will help the rover teams plot out Perseverance's journey through Jezero Crater now that they know exactly where she landed.

While Perseverance is very autonomous, it still needs to talk to teams on Earth before driving on Mars, shooting lasers at rocks or collecting samples.

These teams, with members spread across the globe, will transition to "Mars time," beginning their days about 2 p.m. local time on Mars. For many, especially those at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, this means getting up later in the day and working into the night.

4:42 p.m. ET, February 18, 2021

Here's what the Perseverance rover will do now

Bill Ingalls/NASA
Bill Ingalls/NASA

NASA's Perseverance rover just landed on Mars after leaving Earth more than six months ago.

Now that the rover is on the Red Planet, the work begins.

Here's what it will do:

  • The rover will explore Jezero Crater: The crater is the site of an ancient lake that existed 3.9 billion years ago. The rover will search for microfossils in the rocks and soil there.
  • It will relay images from Mars: 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 rover will drop a helicopter on Mars: Over a process that takes about 10 days, the rover will drop a helicopter, called Ingenuity, on the surface of Mars and roll away from it. The little 4-pound helicopter will have to survive frigid nights, keep itself warm and charge itself using solar panels. Then, it will be ready for its first flight, which will last about 20 seconds.
  • It will search for evidence of ancient life: 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 will record sound: It will be the first recordings of sound on the Red Planet.
4:36 p.m. ET, February 18, 2021

Watch the NASA control room erupt the moment Perseverance landed

Bill Ingalls/NASA
Bill Ingalls/NASA

Perseverance, NASA's most sophisticated rover to date, just landed on Mars.

"When we put our arms together and our hands together and our brains together, we can succeed. This is what NASA does. This is what we can do as a country, on all of the problems we have, we need to work together to do these kinds of things and make success happen," Rob Manning, NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory chief engineer and landing veteran, said on NASA TV of today's accomplishment.

The moment was a culmination of years of preparation for NASA scientists across the country.

Watch the moment inside the NASA control center in Pasadena, California:

4:24 p.m. ET, February 18, 2021

Retired NASA astronaut: Space exploration "directly benefits our ability to survive all the crises that might come at us"

From CNN's Maureen Chowdhury

Erika Goldring/Getty Images
Erika Goldring/Getty Images

Retired NASA astronaut Ron Garan said the Perseverance rover landing on Mars is significant because "these are the baby steps of exploring our whole solar system."

"Really everything we do in space directly benefits life on Earth," Garan told CNN's Brooke Baldwin.

"It directly benefits our ability to survive all the crises that might come at us, whether that's super volcanic eruptions, global warming. Whatever the case is, a better understanding of how planetary science works, how planets function, and the life cycle of planets is going to help us here on Earth immensely. And it's also going to help us understand our place in the universe," he said.

Garan said the rover looking into why there isn't life on Mars now is just as important as looking for signs of life.

"Imagine if we see evidence that there was once life on Mars. I mean, that would be amazing in itself. But to me, the other part of that is, we'd want to know why there's not life there now. We would want to know why a planet that used to have water and used to potentially be able to support life no longer does. And that has incredible implications for our own climate study here on Earth," Garan said.

4:09 p.m. ET, February 18, 2021

This is the first image Perseverance sent from Mars


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


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


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