NASA's Perseverance rover — designed to further the hunt for past life on Mars — successfully touched down on the Red Planet Thursday.
Why it matters: Mars was once a relatively warm, wet and habitable world, and Perseverance — nicknamed Percy — could help NASA figure out if it was inhabited billions of years ago.
What's happening: Perseverance landed in Jezero Crater at the site of what scientists think was once a river delta, thought to be one of the best places to hunt for past life.
- The rover will now go through a series of checkouts before it begins roaming the planet and searching for interesting rocks to study.
- Perseverance comes equipped with multiple instruments, including one designed to create oxygen from carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, which might one day be used by human explorers.
The big picture: Perseverance completes the trio of missions from three different nations that launched to Mars in July and successfully arrived this month.
- The United Arab Emirates's Hope probe and China's Tianwen-1 mission are both orbiting the planet now. China's spacecraft is expected to release a rover down to the surface in the coming months.
What's next: Perseverance is equipped with sample tubes that it will fill with the most interesting looking rocks for an eventual return to Earth on a future mission, expected to launch in 2026.