CAPE CANAVERAL (CBS News) — Racing through space at more than 12,000 mph, NASA’s Perseverance Mars rover reached Mars Thursday and pulled off a thrilling seven-minute plunge through the atmosphere to land on the surface of the red planet. Its mission is to look for evidence of past microbial life in the rocky remnants of an ancient lake.

“Touchdown confirmed! Perseverance is safely on the surface of Mars, ready to begin seeking the signs of past life!” Swati Mohan, a guidance, navigation and control officer monitoring telemetry at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, called out at 3:58 p.m. EST.

Elated, if socially distanced, flight engineers burst into cheers and applause, anxiety giving way to relief in the joy of the moment.

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