The Devon firm key to successful NASA mission to Mars

The parachute was made at Heathcoat Fabrics in Tiverton Credit: Heathcoat Fabrics

Staff at a Devon fabric firm are celebrating after they played a key role in the latest mission to Mars.

Heathcoat Fabrics in Tiverton supplied the parachute which helped land NASA's Perseverance Rover on the surface of the red planet on Thursday 18 February - and the man in charge says watching the robot touch down was a heart-stopping experience.

"It was really tense," said Peter Hill, director of woven fabrics.

He added: "By the end of it I was on my knees in front of the TV hardly able to watch, it was so exciting."

Heathcoat Fabrics got on board with the Mars project five years ago and had to create the strongest, lightest and most heat-resistant fabric known to man.

Cornwall played an important role too, the space centre at Goonhilly receiving the first-ever direct signal from the surface of Mars.

Perseverance will gather rock and soil samples on Mars, and aim to bring them back to Earth in 2030.

The parachute will stay where it landed for the time being.

Mr Hill said: "Hopefully in the future there will be people going there to collect it and re-use it."

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