NASA Rover Perseverance Reaches Mars

The Perseverance rover is safely on the surface of the red planet and already sending back images.

Video Transcript

- Well, NASA is celebrating a major success in its Mars program. The Perseverance rover is safely on the surface of the red planet and already sending back some pictures. Well, after touchdown, NASA tweeted this photo of Perseverance with the caption, "Hello world. My first look at my forever home." And if you missed it here on Newsy yesterday, check out the reaction at mission control right after NASA confirmed a safe landing.

- Touchdown confirmed. Perserverance safely on the surface of Mars, ready to begin seeking the signs of past life.

- And I don't know about you guys, but I was jumping up and down with them in my living room. Well, it's been such a moment of joy for everyone who spent years working on this. My colleague Jay Strubberg spoke to Dr. Melissa Rice, just one of the people who helped make it all possible, about this mission's next steps and what she felt when Perseverance finally touched down.

MELISSA RICE: There's so much tension building up to this moment. I've had 10 years of my own research invested into this. I've brought a dozen students onto this mission over the years, and I've got a group who are working with me now at Western Washington University, and we've just got so much invested in this.

I can't believe we made it to the surface of Mars. Until we got that first image back from the ground, from the Haz Camera, the Hazard Camera, showing the wheel in contact with the surface of Mars, that's when it felt real. That's when the waterworks started, and I just started blubbering on my couch.

JAY STRUBBERG: Other rovers have been sent to Mars, most recently Curiosity, but Perseverance seems like Curiosity on steroids with all its enhancements.

MELISSA RICE: Perseverance is the first step in a multi-stage sample return campaign. What that means is that Perseverance is not only going to be studying rocks on Mars, it's going to be collecting rock samples, storing them in a hermetically sealed sample tubes, and leaving those rock samples on the surface of Mars for the next mission to come and grab and bring back to Earth.

So this is the first step towards getting rocks from the surface of Mars back to Earth so that we can study them with the most sophisticated instruments available here in Earth laboratories. That has never been done before.

JAY STRUBBERG: And so when might that happen? There's going to be another mission to pick up what Perseverance finds and then bring it back to Earth.

MELISSA RICE: Exactly. And there will actually be two follow up missions. The next one scheduled to launch in 2026. It will land next to Perseverance, or where Perseverance has deposited those samples. It will grab them and bring them to a launch vehicle. But we can't launch all the way back to Earth in one shot. So it's going to launch those samples into orbit around Mars.

And then it will require a third step to go back to Mars, into orbit around Mars, grab those samples from thin air, literally, and bring them all the way back to Earth. So Perseverance is step one in this three-step decade-long process. It's going to be a long time until we get those rocks back here, but it will have been worth it.

JAY STRUBBERG: Dr. Melissa Rice, thank you so much for your time. And again, congratulations. I'm sure your nerves are jumping around right now.

MELISSA RICE: Whoo! I'm just so relieved to finally be on Mars.