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Missouri Has Landed on Mars!

The NASA Perseverance rover landed safely on Mars yesterday, after its 292.5-million-mile journey from Earth. “Percy,” as the spacecraft is affectionately called at NASA’s mission control, sent back the first images of the landing site immediately after touchdown. And Missouri was literally on the ground on Mars, and Missouri talent made the mission possible from the production floor to mission control.

“This landing is one of those pivotal moments for NASA, the United States, and space exploration globally — when we know we are on the cusp of discovery and sharpening our pencils, so to speak, to rewrite the textbooks,” said acting NASA Administrator Steve Jurczyk.

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The new rover is powered by batteries manufactured by EaglePicher Technologies in Joplin, Missouri. Two of the company’s thermal batteries powered the spacecraft during the entry, descent and landing stages. The rover’s main power system consists of two EaglePicher batteries that will function independently from the other, in case of failure.

“It’s local people that went to Missouri universities that have helped develop a lot of the things that we’re dealing with today,” said Ron Nowlin, senior VP of aerospace systems for EaglePicher.

Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

Perseverance is the largest rover to date sent by NASA to the surface of Mars. It has a 7-foot robotic arm that can drill and grip to collect rock samples. It has nearly two dozen cameras as well as two microphones that will allow us to hear the red planet for the first time. On board are 43 sample tubes that will be used to store rock and soil samples as NASA readies a follow-up mission to collect those samples, with the goal of bringing them back to Earth.

Perseverance also has a 4-pound helicopter stored aboard to help scout out distant Martian territory for future missions and hopefully, one day, for astronauts. Saint Louis University graduate Fernando Abilleira led the way at mission control as the deputy mission manager in charge of design and navigation for the Perseverance landing.

Missouri has a long history of powering NASA’s space program including the InSight Lander, which is currently on the surface of MarsNASA’s OSIRIS-Rex spacecraft and the International Space Station. And Missouri has been a key part of the US space program since the 1950s driving the development of the Mercury and Gemini space programs and the CST-100 Starliner.

“The Mars 2020 Perseverance mission embodies our nation’s spirit of persevering even in the most challenging of situations, inspiring, and advancing science and exploration,” said Jurczyk. “The mission itself personifies the human ideal of persevering toward the future and will help us prepare for human exploration of the Red Planet in the 2030s.” 

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