PARADISE, Calif. — The country watched as NASA rover “Perseverance” landed on Mars Thursday, on a mission to collect rocks that could determine if life ever existed on the red planet.
But hidden away on one of its arms were special chips commemorating the Butte County town of Paradise, Calif.
According to Paradise city councilmember Melissa Schuster, NASA representative Jerry Stoces reached out to the town with the idea back in 2019. One of his childhood friends escaped the disaster, but lost her home in Paradise, so the Camp Fire disaster had personal meaning for Stoces, Schuster said.
“I think the name [Perseverance] is so fitting since it is carrying the name of Paradise. This town is perseverance personified,” Stoces said at an assembly at Paradise Elementary back in March 2020.
Each chip has a different message: one reads “The Town of Paradise” and the other “Paradise Strong." Also on the chips are the names of the 85 people who died in the 2018 Camp Fire, according to reporting by the ABC station in Redding, KRCR. A certificate with a copy of the chips hangs at Paradise Town Hall, Schuster said.
During his visit back in 2020, Stoces also brought along Star Wars characters from the “Golden Gate 501st Legion,” with toys for the school children they visited around the area, all donated from NASA and the Peter Mayhew Foundation, Schuster said.
NASA says the six-wheeled Perseverance hurtled through the thin, orange atmosphere and settled onto the surface Thursday in the mission’s riskiest maneuver yet. Perseverance will collect geological samples that will be brought back to Earth in about a decade to be analyzed for signs of ancient microscopic life. NASA invested approximately $2.4 billion to build and launch the Mars 2020 Perseverance mission. The estimate to land and operate the rover during its prime mission is approximately $300 million.