50 Precious Words About Perseverance


This high-resolution still image is part of a video taken by several cameras as NASA’s Perseverance rover touched down on Mars on Feb. 18, 2021. A camera aboard the descent stage captured this shot. Photo credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech.


I've been absent here, but I've been doing a lot of writing lately. Picture books, a professional book, you name it. But I'm here to talk about a different piece of writing.


Author Vivian Kirkfield runs a yearly contest called #50PreciousWords. As the name implies, the challenge is to write a complete story (with a beginning, middle, and end) in only 50 words. As she notes, "the average word length for [picture books] is getting shorter and shorter." While many picture books are still longer than 50 words, constraints are a great way to sharpen creativity. And with many terrific prizes up for grabs, I knew I wanted to participate.


But what to write about? I'm primarily a nonfiction writer, unless random inspiration strikes me (usually, about my dogs). So I decided to write a narrative nonfiction story in 50 words about the most inspiring event I've witnessed lately - the Perseverance rover landing on Mars on February 18, 2021.


I'll admit to getting teary eyed while I watched the landing. The sheer impressiveness of the science and engineering at hand, the dedication and, er, perseverance of the NASA JPL team, and the sheer joy on the faces in Mission Control moved me. And the video released a few days later with footage from Perseverance itself? Stunning.


So without further ado, I present my entry into this year's #50PreciousWords contest, complete at 49 words!


Countdown to Mars

It has traveled for seven months.

293 million miles.

Now, we watch and wait.

Will Perseverance land itself?


The massive parachute opens.

Perseverance slows.

Its jetpack lowers the rover

Down to the planet’s surface.


Seven minutes of terror becomes

a moment of unbelievable joy.

Touchdown confirmed.

Welcome to Mars.


Wish me luck! As our new favorite rover first tweeted upon landing, "Perseverance will get you anywhere."

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