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Spacecraft Converge on Mars
News Bytes 02/22/2021 22 Comments

Three spacecraft arrived at Earth’s cosmic neighbor in the first half of this month—all reaching Mars in the space of just over a week. On Thursday, NASA’s Perseverance rover touched down on the surface, to cheers and celebration back at home in California. The ground control crew had waited nearly seven months for Perseverance to get into range, and then another seven silent and terrifying minutes during its descent through the Mars atmosphere. When radio silence was broken, Perseverance sent back two grainy photos of the planet’s surface. NASA called the touchdown “flawless.”

Perseverance is the biggest, most advanced rover ever sent by NASA. It became the ninth spacecraft to successfully land on Mars. Every one of those so far has come from the United States.

But now two more craft from other nations are orbiting the Red Planet. One from the United Arab Emirates and another from China swung into orbit on successive days last week. Hope, the UAE orbiter, sent back its first photo of Mars on Sunday.

All three missions lifted off in July to take advantage of the close alignment of Earth and Mars. (See It Was the Summer of Mars.) All journeyed some 300 million miles over nearly seven months.

“Now the amazing science starts,” says a jubilant Thomas Zurbuchen, NASA's science mission chief.

The car-sized, plutonium-powered Perseverance rover arrived at Jezero Crater, hitting NASA’s smallest and trickiest target yet: a five-by-four-mile strip on an ancient river delta full of pits, cliffs, and rocks. Scientists believe that if life of any kind ever flourished on Mars, it would have happened where water flowed on the planet.

Over the next two years, Percy, as it is nicknamed, will use its seven-foot arm to drill and collect rock samples. Three to four dozen chalk-size samples will be sealed in tubes and set aside to be retrieved eventually by another rover. Then they’ll be brought to Earth by another rocket ship. Scientists will examine those samples for possible signs of bygone microscopic life. The goal is to get them back to Earth as early as 2031.

China’s spacecraft includes a smaller rover that will also seek evidence of life, if it makes it safely down from orbit in May or June. Two older NASA landers are still humming along on Mars: 2012’s Curiosity rover and 2018’s InSight.

(Live-streaming images from NASA showing Perseverance’s view on Mars are shown in London on February 18, 2021. Much of the world watched as the rover made its descent through the Red Planet’s atmosphere and safely touched down. AP/Alastair Grant)

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Most recent comments

1st comment

Yes we watched this live! And I cannot believe that they got images of Mars so quickly after the landing! But 2031 for the rock seems a long way away...

2nd Comment

2031 sure is a long time... who knows what the world will be like at that time! But that is cool they got to Mars.

Oh! Has anyone watched the

Oh! Has anyone watched the two films The Runner From Ravenshead and The Defense of New Haven? They were done by one homeschool family that lives up in oregon, and the actors are their five kids! Just the five kids play all the parts! The first one was done if 2010, and the second in 2016. I DEFINITELY recommend watching them! They are so cool! But yeah they started doing it as a just for fun sort of thing on the weekends, but then the dad quit his job and they started doing it full time. We watched them free through Amazon Prime, if any of y'all have that. Again, I would tell you to watch them! You can go to their page and blog and behind the scenes at 'little crew studios . com' that wasn't a link was it? becasue I put a space in between each word.

@ Riley

Never heard of them, but I’ll check them out! Thanks for recommending!

this is mylee

i checked them out too it looks cute XD ! I am so glad they landed that on mars but i would hate to wait that long .......


Didn't Mark Rober, the Youtuber, help send the Perseverance go to on mars?

@Riley D

Yeah i have watched those movies, my family just found them a few weeks ago

This is London

I will have to look. That’s cool tho 2031 seems to be awile

@Riley D

Lol, yes, I watched the first one a long time ago. XD. I used to love it. It was funny.

Good grief, it must be the

Good grief, it must be the high-tech future already! Luke Skywalker, here we come! Lol XP XP XP

Riley: How long are the

Riley: How long are the movies? And is it really just their five kids?
Micha D: Ha-ha! :)

@ Riley

And...are the two movies related?


Is it just me or is anybody else super eager to see when they will send PEOPLE to Mars?

@cadence j

I saw you comment on kowtowing in Sri Lanka and even tho u've been here for a while now I just want to "officially" welcome you.
be ready for a lot of this

JK :)
so have fun
wutever u do


also i hope you c this because it to a long time to make it.

@ Grace

Yeah, they do. Why not the moon?

I think it's great that they

I think it's great that they got a rover on Mars. I also think it will be a wonderful achievement if they send people to Mars. However, I do NOT want to be part of that crew. (I'm a land person through and through. I like to reach for the stars with my feet planted firmly on the ground)

@Alaina H.

I an also a land person. Being in a spaceship sounds kind of freaky


My dad has been talking about this! :D

@ Jack E

Freaky? Nah, not freaky! Cool is more like it!

@ Mirela


@Jack E, Mirela J

I like heights, although I am not sure what it would be like iN a spacecraft, but I do like airplanes and climbing up the grain elevator leg at our farm!

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