Members of NASA’s Perseverance rover team react in mission control after receiving confirmation the spacecraft successfully touched down on Mars, Thursday, Feb. 18, 2021, at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California. The team is masked and distanced with accordance to COVID-19 safety precautions.  (Image credit: NASA/Bill Ingalls)

PASADENA, Calif. — After a year of seemingly endless obstacles and challenges imposed by the coronavirus pandemic, something good finally happened. Amidst the chaos and strife, NASA landed its most ambitious robotic explorer ever on the surface of Mars. 

On Thursday (Feb. 18), a bright light shone as people around the world celebrated the Perseverance Mars rover landing safely in Jezero Crater, an ancient lakebed on the Red Planet’s surface. As I watched the rover’s descent to the Martian surface in (almost) real-time from NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) here, the landing was a welcome respite following a truly grueling year.