Santa Clarita Valley science enthusiasts joined in celebrations taking place across the world while watching the successful landing of NASA’s Mars 2020 Perseverance rover Thursday.
Described by NASA and aerospace engineers from the project as the “most sophisticated rover” ever sent by the federal government to the “Red Planet,” the agency confirmed Perseverance had successfully touched down at 12:55 p.m.
The robot’s mission for the immediate future, according to NASA, is to collect rock and sediment samples, search for ancient microbial life and learn more about the geology and climate of a planet humans eventually wish to explore on foot.
“Perseverance is the first rover to bring a sample caching system to Mars that will package promising samples for return to Earth by a future mission,” read a NASA news release about the mission. “Perseverance is also ferrying several cutting-edge technologies to the surface of Mars — including a helicopter named Ingenuity, the first aircraft to attempt powered, controlled flight on another planet.”
This particular NASA project, as well many preceding missions, have been a continuous source of pride for the SCV. A number of employees and researchers who work at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory at the California Institute of Technology — a federally funded research and development center focused on space exploration and managed by Caltech for NASA — call the SCV home.
For example, Jennifer Trosper, a Santa Clarita resident and project manager for Perseverance, was noted by JPL to have been a leader of the Perseverance mission after it had first launched July 30.
For previous Mars missions, landing systems engineer Gene Bonfiglio, also a Santa Clarita resident, talked about his two decades of work at JPL contributing to the InSight Lander successfully touching down on Mars’ surface in November 2018.
Rep. Mike Garcia, R-Santa Clarita, who serves on the House Science, Space, and Technology Committee, said he watched the landing from NASA’s Jet Propulsion Lab, a relatively short distance from his district. He joined his constituents on social media in celebrating their neighbors’ successful work and mission.
“Today’s landing is a reminder of what we can achieve when we come together,” Garcia wrote in a statement released by his office shortly after the launch. “Perseverance will bring us a better understanding of Mars, and as a result, it will lead to space and science advancements here in the United States. We must continue to support and improve our nation’s space exploration, something that plays a pivotal role in our community here in Southern California and also in our national security.”