SINGAPORE - Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong on Friday (Feb 19) hailed the historic landing of Nasa's Perseverance rover on Mars after a seven-month journey from Earth.
"It is a remarkable feat of science, engineering, and space exploration," PM Lee wrote in a Facebook post, sharing the news.
"This latest Nasa rover builds on the success of the previous four Mars rover missions. But it was complicated by the pandemic - the many teams involved had to collaborate, construct the vehicle, and plan the mission amid Covid-19 safety measures. 'Perseverance' was aptly named indeed!"
The robotic rover, which has been dubbed the most advanced astrobiology laboratory ever sent to another world, had covered 472 million km since its launch in late July 2020 to land safely on Mars' Jezero crater on Thursday - its first stop on a search for traces of ancient microbial life on the red planet.
In its two-year mission, Perseverance will collect rock and soil samples that will eventually be returned to Earth in future missions. It will also carry out technology experiments in the Martian environment, including flying a mini robotic helicopter.
"Even in troubled times, it is important to press on with scientific endeavour, not only in areas with tangible benefits, but also where returns are not immediate or obvious," PM Lee wrote in his Facebook post.
"Seeking to explore and understand the world around us and beyond is vital to the human spirit, and the progress of humanity."
Scientists from the National Aeronautics and Space Administration have described Perseverance as the most ambitious of nearly 20 United States missions to Mars over more than five decades.
The rover's descent to the Martian surface, at the site that Nasa described as both tantalising to scientists and especially hazardous for landing, stands as the most elaborate and challenging feat in the annals of robotic spaceflight.