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"Perseverance" landed successfully on Mars

The US rover "Perseverance" has successfully landed on Mars. "Landing confirmed", it said on Thursday from the control center of the US space agency Nasa in Pasadena, California - and applause and cheers broke out among the engineers and scientists. Just a few minutes after landing, “Perseverance” sent its first pixelated black and white photos - among other things, the shadows and wheels of the rover as well as the surface and horizon of Mars can be seen.

"What a wonderful day," said acting Nasa boss Steve Jurczyk. "What a wonderful team that has worked through all the adversities and challenges that come with landing a Mars rover - and then the challenges of the corona pandemic." US President Joe Biden congratulated everyone on Twitter successful landing: "Today it has been proven again that nothing is impossible with the power of science and American ingenuity."

Launched in July 2020 from the Cape Canaveral spaceport, the robot touched down - after 203 days of flight and 472 million kilometers traveled - with a risky maneuver lasting several minutes in a dry lake called "Jezero Crater" that had never been examined on site before. This lake with a diameter of around 45 kilometers is to be investigated by “Perseverance” (in German: stamina) in the next two years. According to initial findings, the rover was in good condition after landing, said NASA manager Matt Wallace.

It took eight years to develop and build the robot, which cost around $ 2.5 billion. He will search for traces of earlier microbial life on Mars and research the climate and geology of the planet. In addition, the robot should help with the preparations for the manned exploration of Mars planned for the 2030s, said the acting NASA boss Jurczyk. "This landing is one of those key moments for NASA, the US and global space exploration."

On board, the roughly 1000 kilogram robot the size of a small car has, among other things, 7 scientific instruments, 23 cameras, a laser - and it comes up with numerous NASA premieres: for the first time, microphones were sent to Mars with “Perseverance”, and for the first time ever small helicopter, and for the first time samples are to be brought back to Earth from Mars in a mission developed jointly with the European Space Agency Esa.

Because of the corona pandemic, only around half of the NASA employees who would normally work there during such a maneuver were present in the control center. They wore masks with a picture of the rover on them, kept their distance from each other and after confirmation of the successful landing did not hug each other as usual, but merely bumped their fists together in jubilation. “The team is freaking out, it's all so surreal,” said chief engineer Rob Manning. The large plastic box of peanuts, which is usually passed around before such a landing attempt and is supposed to bring good luck, has been replaced by individual packages for everyone, he had previously revealed. At a press conference a few hours after the successful landing, NASA manager Thomas Zurbuchen symbolically tore up the emergency plan that had been drawn up and printed out on paper for the failure of the mission.

“Perseverance” is already the fifth rover that NASA has brought to Mars - the last time “Curiosity” arrived there in 2012. Overall, however, not even half of all Mars missions launched worldwide have so far been successful. Last week, space probes from the United Arab Emirates and China successfully entered the planet's orbit in quick succession. "Al-Amal", the probe of the United Arab Emirates, is not supposed to land, the landing of the Chinese spaceship "Tianwen 1" is planned in two to three months.

“I'm safe on Mars”, it was said after landing on the Twitter account of “Perseverance”. "Perseverance will get you everywhere." The landing was also confirmed on NASA's Twitter profile - with the addition: "The countdown to Mars is over, but the mission has only just begun."

++ This article was updated at 9.49 a.m. ++