‘Paradise Strong’ emblazoned on Mars Rover Perseverance as it reaches the red planet
PARADISE, Calif. — On Thursday, the Mars rover Perseverance will land on the red planet to begin a two-year mission looking for signs of past life and the potential for future visits by humans.
This new rover is carrying a piece of the Northstate along with it. The spacecraft is embedded with two chips engraved with the words ‘Town of Paradise, California ‘ and ‘Paradise Strong,’, along with the names of the people killed in the 2018 Camp Fire that destroyed most of Paradise. The names of the 85 people killed in the fire are etched in tiny print onto a chip that is about the size of a quarter that will be visible on the rover.
The landing on Mars will happen at 12:55 p.m. California time Thursday, completing the seven-month journey. NASA representative Jerry Stoces visited Paradise in early 2020 to explain the mission and how the town would be represented. On Thursday students in Paradise will be watching a feed from their classroom.
“The NASA Team was very touched by how many lives were affected by this fire,” said Jerry Stoces, a former NASA employee who was part of the effort to including Paradise in the mission. “We felt terrible for the lives lost and we wanted to do something special:”
Stoces said his close childhood friend lived in Paradise and survived the fire. He and others at NASA and the Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) were inspired by the town’s story and strength in rebuilding.
“You try to take these things we do, these great reaches into space and other planets and try to make it real, and have it be a touchstone for lifting spirits,” Stoces said. “You try to have them be something other than a piece of scientific hardware, You hope it’s something that will help you look beyond the horizon and have a bit of hope, not only a remembrance for those souls that were lost but have a bit of that grit and strength of the community rebounding riding with us too.”
The ‘Paradise Strong’ logo will also be posted in Mission Control as the rover does it’s job roaming the surface of Mars.
“It was a privilege to see the toughness and heart of the community we’re so proud to have them fly with us and be a part of space history forever, that will be on Mars for all time, This rover’s specific purpose is to find out what do we have on that planet than can allow us to extend humanity there.”
Perseverance, the biggest, most advanced rover ever sent by NASA, stood to become the ninth spacecraft to successfully land on Mars, every one of them from the U.S., beginning in the 1970s.
The car-size, plutonium-powered rover was aiming for NASA’s smallest and trickiest target yet: a 5–by-4-mile strip on an ancient river delta full of pits, cliffs, and fields of rock. Scientists believe that if life ever flourished on Mars, it would have happened 3 billion to 4 billion years ago when water still flowed on the planet.
Percy, as it is nicknamed, was designed to drill down with its 7-foot (2-meter) arm and collect rock samples that might hold signs of bygone microscopic life. The plan called for three to four dozen chalk-size samples to be sealed in tubes and set aside on Mars to be retrieved by a fetch rover and brought homeward by another rocket ship, with the goal of getting them back to Earth as early as 2031.
Scientists hope to answer one of the central questions of theology, philosophy, and space exploration.
“Are we alone in this sort of vast cosmic desert, just flying through space, or is life much more common? Does it just emerge whenever and wherever the conditions are ripe?” said deputy project scientist Ken Williford. “Big, basic questions, and we don’t know the answers yet. So we’re really on the verge of being able to potentially answer these enormous questions.”
China’s spacecraft includes a smaller rover that also will be seeking evidence of life — if it makes it safely down from orbit in May or June.
Perseverance’s descent has been described by NASA as “seven minutes of terror,” in which flight controllers can only watch helplessly. The preprogrammed spacecraft was designed to hit the thin Martian atmosphere at 12,100 mph (19,500 kph), then use a parachute to slow it down and a rocket-steered platform known as a sky crane to lower the rover the rest of the way to the surface.