DENVER — After more than six months, hundreds of millions of miles and what NASA technicians dubbed the final "seven minutes of terror," the NASA Perseverance Rover safely landed on Mars Thursday. And somewhere on it is the name of a Colorado hero.
The car-sized robot beamed its first images from the surface of the Red Planet back home to Earth.
"It was a very good feeling today," said David Scholz, a senior mechanical engineer at Lockheed Martin. "There are several years worth of work going into this."
The mission of the Perseverance is far from complete. The robot will spend the next months collecting samples from the surface of Mars and sending data back to Earth. The goal is to someday send a rocket to Mars that can collect the samples and make the return trip back to Earth.
"The main goal is to find life, signs of ancient life or signs of an ancient habitat that that could sustain life," said Scholz. "We took a very large step forward toward that goal today."
Though the Perseverance rover on Mars is hundreds of millions of miles away, it has several big ties to Colorado. Many of the scientists who built and are tracking the robot are stationed at the Lockheed Martin laboratory in Jefferson County.
Also, a Broomfield-based company called Air-Squared created a device that is hitching a ride inside the rover. Its function is to take the oxygen out of carbon dioxide gas for human consumption or for propulsion fuel. Scientists are testing to see if it can be pulled from the atmosphere of Mars.
The Rover also has an emotional tie to Colorado. Somewhere on the body of NASA's Perseverance rover is the name of Kendrick Castillo. The name of the hero who died saving others in the STEM School shooting in 2019 is a part of the mission to bring life into space.
"Aerospace industries in Colorado were Kendrick’s passion," his father, John Castillo, said. "Kendrick has a unique name and to know that it is on this rover and that it is making history and doing things that have never been done before is special to us."
This story was first published by Sloan Dickey at KMGH.