By Shawn Chitnis
LITTLETON, Colo. (CBS4) — The team at Lockheed Martin responsible for the aeroshell protecting the Mars 2020 rover celebrated its entry and landing on the surface of the red planet Thursday. They were watching along virtually with their colleagues at NASA.

(credit: CBS)

Perseverance is the latest Mars mission that continues a long history of discovery from the company’s facilities in Colorado.

“It is definitely the culmination of a lot of work, a lot of design,” said David Buecher, the program manager for this mission at Lockheed Martin. “It takes this whole team to support those roles and this is the culmination of all that hard work.”

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The aeroshell protects the rover through heat and pressure from the atmospheric environment of Mars. It is autonomous and has independent commands including the release of the parachute for Perseverance. Lockheed Martin has been a part of every Mars entry program and includes landing missions as well as spacecraft orbiting the planet.

“It’s very challenging, it holds similarities to Earth, it gives us some understanding of what Earth could look like,” Buecher told CBS4 on Thursday. “It’s super exciting for us.”

He said that we learn so much more about our planet, and others in the solar system, because of these missions. Lockheed Martin currently has three spacecraft missions orbiting Mars: Maven, MRO, and Odyssey. All three are flown and controlled from Colorado.

“They’re very exciting, they tie to you emotionally because it’s space, it’s something new, it’s something amazing,” he said of all missions.

Lockheed Martin staff had to keep their distance and watch with masks on in a limited capacity. They cheered with each milestone along the way of Perseverance’s entry, descent, and landing. Then they had their largest round of applause as NASA announced a successful touchdown of the rover.

(credit: NASA)

“It’s a big emotional day, right? You have the highs of the landing, the excitement and the joy and the satisfaction of all that hard work,” Bucher said after the celebration.

(credit: NASA)

In the next few months, the rover will deploy a helicopter and Lockheed Martin will assist with the deployment and retainment of the helicopter.

“These missions are very special, they’re very difficult to perform, it takes a lot of different groups,” he said.

Shawn Chitnis