Published: 15:39, 19 February 2021
| Updated: 18:15, 19 February 2021
A telescope near one of Kent's twin towns helped the NASA mission reach Mars.
The one-tonne ‘Perseverance’ rover touched down on the Martian surface yesterday following a descent branded ‘seven minutes of terror’.
Tracking the landing - and making sure it was on a successful flight path - were two telescopes, one being located in the Appalachians in West Virginia.
The second is the Effelsberg telescope, sited near the German town of Bad Münstereifel which is twinned with Ashford.
The two telescopes are the largest mobile radio telescopes in the world, and are normally used to detect natural radio waves from deep space.
Yesterday, they were listening to transmissions from an ultra-high frequency antenna attached to the rover.
According to NASA, “Green Bank Observatory in Green Bank, West Virginia, and the Effelsberg Observatory in Germany will be listening for a dial-tone-like UHF signal called a carrier signal until Perseverance loses its direct line of sight back to Earth.”
The £1.9billion rover will now explore the red planet’s Jezero Crater, aided by an autonomous drone, in the search for micro-organisms.
Bad Münstereifel and Ashford have been twinned since 1964, and hold many exchanges and visits each year.
The German town actually has two high-powered telescopes nearby, making it a hub for astronomy.