After a tense seven minutes, Percy is alive and well.
Y’know, in almost any other context, shooting $2.4 billion worth of tech into space would probably feel like a waste of money. Then again, if you’re not NASA, you probably wouldn’t expect to ever see something you shot into space ever again. Luckily, NASA’s latest bundle of tech successfully completed its journey through the void, and we’ll be seeing very much of him for hopefully years to come.
Yesterday afternoon, NASA livestreamed the landing of their latest rover, Perseverance (or “Percy” for short), as it began its landing sequence to touch down onto the surface of the planet Mars. Whenever a rover lands on another celestial body, the process is known among NASA staff as the “seven minutes of terror,” because in just seven minutes the rover’s onboard computer needs to run through a series of complicated calculations and adjustments nearly perfectly, or it could crash. The entire process was very subdued until the last the minute as the operators watched with bated breath as Percy ran through its landing process. Thankfully, everything went off without a hitch, and the Rover successfully landed on Mars no worse for wear.
“Touchdown confirmed! Perseverance is safely on the surface of Mars, ready to begin seeking the signs of past life!” Swati Mohan, a guidance, navigation and control officer monitoring telemetry at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory announced at the time, prompting a bout of whooping and cheering from all present personnel (sat six feet apart, of course).
“I almost feel like I’m in a dream,” said Jennifer Trosper, deputy project manager. “Our job is to think of all the bad things that can happen and try to avoid those, and when all good things happen, you feel like you’re dreaming. And I’m happy to feel like I’m dreaming!”
— NASA's Perseverance Mars Rover (@NASAPersevere) February 18, 2021
Percy has already tweeted out its first photograph of the Martian surface on its new official Twitter page, writing “Hello, world. My first look at my forever home.” With any luck, the little machine will have some more detailed photos and data for us very soon.