In Brief

Perseverance rover begins Martian search for ‘extraterrestrial life’

Six-wheeled rover will collect samples and could pave way for humans on the planet

Nasa’s science rover Perseverance, the most advanced astrobiology laboratory ever sent to another planet, has successfully landed on Mars.

The touchdown followed what the Daily Mirror calls “seven minutes of terror” as the six-wheeled rover carefully descended from the top of the Martian atmosphere to the planet’s surface.

Its heat shield had to endure temperatures as high as 2,100C (3,800F) to complete the successful landing, which marks a historic triumph for the space agency that has seen around 60% of its missions to Mars fail.

Engineers at Nasa’s mission control in California “erupted with joy when the confirmation of touchdown came through”, the BBC reports. “The good news is the spacecraft, I think, is in great shape,” said Matt Wallace, the mission’s deputy project manager.

Now it’s arrived, the Mars 2020 Perseverance Rover will begin “search for signs of ancient microbial life, which will advance Nasa’s quest to explore the past habitability of Mars”, Nasa says. The rover will “drill to collect core samples of Martian rock” before “stor[ing] them in sealed tubes for pickup by a future mission that would ferry them back to Earth for detailed analysis”.

Although Mars is currently cold and dry, with a thin atmosphere, the planet appears to have been wetter billions of years ago, with a thicker atmosphere that would support life.

It is not likely that the rover will be able to confirm signs of life with 100% certainty. But Briony Horgan, associate professor of planetary science at Purdue University and part of the Perseverance team, told the New Scientist that “the hope is we’ll find very strong evidence – layers of organic material layered in with microbial mat textures on an ancient shoreline, something like that”.

The mission could also bring Nasa closer to sending humans to the planet, with the magazine adding that it may act as a “sort of dress rehearsal” for a crewed mission to Mars.

Recommended

How many people need to be vaccinated against Covid to get life back to normal?
Margaret Keenan becomes the first patient in the UK to receive the Pfizer/BioNtech vaccine
In Focus

How many people need to be vaccinated against Covid to get life back to normal?

Where are ‘desperate’ EU countries turning for Covid vaccines?
Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban wearing face mask
Behind the scenes

Where are ‘desperate’ EU countries turning for Covid vaccines?

Elections make us miserable, global study reveals
A man votes in the 2016 EU referendum
Getting to grips with . . .

Elections make us miserable, global study reveals

Race to track down UK patient infected with Brazil Covid strain
A traveller leaves the Heathrow Radisson Blu after completing the quarantine period
The latest on . . .

Race to track down UK patient infected with Brazil Covid strain

Popular articles

Best TV crime dramas to watch in 2021
Line of Duty series six returns to BBC One in 2021
In Depth

Best TV crime dramas to watch in 2021

Quiz of The Week
Boris Johnson chairs a session of the UN Security Council
Quizzes and puzzles

Quiz of The Week

Ten Things You Need to Know Today: 1 March 2021
10 Downing Street
Daily Briefing

Ten Things You Need to Know Today: 1 March 2021