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US President Joe Biden on Thursday hailed the "historic" landing of the Perseverance rover on Mars as proof of the power of science and "American ingenuity."

Taking to Twitter, Biden said, "Congratulations to NASA and everyone whose hard work made Perseverance's historic landing possible. Today proved once again that with the power of science and American ingenuity, nothing is beyond the realm of possibility."

After seven months in space, NASA's Perseverance rover survived a nail-biting landing phase to touch down gently on the surface of Mars on Thursday, ready to embark on its mission to search for the signs of ancient microbial life.

"Touchdown confirmed," said operations lead Swati Mohan at around 3:55 pm Eastern Time (2055 GMT), as mission control at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena erupted in cheers.

The autonomously guided procedure was completed more than 11 minutes earlier, which is how long it takes for radio signals to return to Earth.

"WOW!!" tweeted NASA Associate Administrator Thomas Zurbuchen as he posted Perseverance's first black and white image from the Jezero Crater in Mars' northern hemisphere.

Over the course of several years, Perseverance will attempt to collect 30 rock and soil samples in sealed tubes, to be eventually sent back to Earth sometime in the 2030s for lab analysis.

About the size of an SUV, it weighs a ton, is equipped with a seven-foot (two meter) long robotic arm, has 19 cameras, two microphones, and a suite of cutting-edge instruments to assist in its scientific goals.

Before it could embark on its lofty quest, it first had to overcome the dreaded "seven minutes of terror" -- the risky landing procedure that has scuppered nearly 50 percent of all missions to the planet.

Shortly after 3:30 pm Eastern Time (2030 GMT), the Mars 2020 spacecraft careened into the Martian atmosphere at 12,500 miles (20,000 kilometers) per hour, protected by its heat shield.

It then deployed a supersonic parachute the size of a Little League field, before firing up an eight-engined jetpack to slow its descent even further, and then eventually lower the rover carefully to the ground on a set of cables.

Its target site was "absolutely treacherous for landing," Allen Chen, lead engineer for the landing stage said Thursday.

But the vessel had new landing technologies up its sleeve to help it navigate during descent, including the "Terrain Relative Navigation" that uses a special camera to identify surface features and compare them to an onboard map.

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