NASA safely landed a new robotic rover on Mars on Thursday, beginning its most ambitious effort in decades to directly study whether there was ever life on the now barren red planet.

While the agency has completed other missions to Mars, the $2.7 billion robotic explorer, named Perseverance, carries scientific tools that will bring advanced capabilities to the search for life beyond Earth. The rover, about the size of a car, can use its sophisticated cameras, lasers that can analyze the chemical makeup of Martian rocks and ground-penetrating radar to identify the chemical signatures of fossilized microbial life that may have thrived on Mars when it was a planet full of flowing water.

What a great day for science. Missions like this lift my spirits.

NASA did a great job not just with the mission but with engaging with and including everyone at home. NASA Pre-landing Simulation is a cool visualization to play with, and they also have some great resources for kids. My daughter and I made paper helicopters from their Landing Toolkit website while we watched the stream on Youtube.