NASA’s Perseverance rover makes successful landing on Mars with ties to Oregon

This is the largest and heaviest rover, and it landed at the most difficult landing site crews have seen -- Jezero Crater.

Posted: Feb 18, 2021 1:01 PM
Updated: Feb 18, 2021 6:47 PM

JEZERO CRATER -- Seven months and nearly 300 million miles later, NASA's most sophisticated rover to date, Perseverance, successfully landed on the surface of Mars Thursday at 12:55 p.m. PST.

RELATED: NASA'S PERSEVERANCE ROVER WILL LAND ON MARS THIS WEEK. HERE'S WHAT TO EXPECT

This is the largest and heaviest rover, and it landed at the most difficult landing site crews have seen -- Jezero Crater.

NASA scientists are able to breathe a sigh of relief after what many call the "seven minutes of terror."

The rover will search for signs of ancient life and study the planet's climate and geology.

Scott Fisher is the director of Undergraduate Studies at the University of Oregon Department of Physics.

“That crazy landing sequence actually worked,” Fisher said. “It's an incredible technological feat. We humans are clever. We can do clever things when we put our minds to it.”

He, along with thousands of others, watched the landing take place.

“Now Perseverance’s little one liner is: 'Let's look for ancient life,'” Fisher said. “So a lot of the experiments and the technology that's built onto Perseverance is meant just for that.”

There are several Oregon ties for those who helped on the mission, including Oregon State University graduate Bill Allen who is an engineer at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory. He studied engineering physics at OSU and since then has assisted with three Mars missions and four rovers, including Perseverance.

MORE: HOW TO WATCH THE MARS ROVER LANDING TODAY

KEZI 9 News spoke to Portland resident Clarke Boozer who recalls meeting Allen at freshman orientation at Oregon State University.

“I just remember a young man that was really well grounded and seemed to know what he wanted to do. He knew he was going to be an engineer at that time. He just had this demeanor," Boozer said.

So, he's not surprised that his friend played a critical role in this success.

"I mean he was always serious about the books," Boozer said. "When we'd be going down to hoop at the recreation center, he'd come along every once in a while -- but most of the time he was staying back at the place to do his work."

The rover landed with the help of a team of a couple thousand people at the NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory, as well as other NASA centers.

The $2.7 billion rover had been travelling through space since the end of July.

Now, experts say this is an even greater opportunity to explore signs of ancient life on the red planet.

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