Space's new rover looked for all the world like a toy tie-in to a sci-fi TV series as it was pictured being lowered on to the surface of Mars.
Cables from a sky crane ran above it and below was a glimpse of dark, pale-streaked terrain.
With a squat body bristling with gadgets and six fat wheels, the sturdy Perseverance rover could have been a miniature vehicle plenty of kids would want to push around on their bedroom carpets.
Instead, the rover is the fifth that Nasa has successfully landed on the Red Planet and is set to explore an ancient river bed 2km away.
A close-up photo beamed to Earth showed a landscape in Jezero Crater of white pock-marked rock, sand and stones.
Space missions that succeed are always a bit surreal, in a positive way.
There's something rather Hollywood-like about achieving perfect precision millions of kilometres away and then being able to see the results.
In everyday terms it would be like throwing a basketball from K Rd and sending it through a Britomart hoop.
It's a moment of sheer amazement and wonder.
What is also incredible is that the US rover has company.
The older Curiosity rover is 3750km away. Nasa's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter photographed Perseverance landing and the new rover has its own mini helicopter on board.
And spacecraft from China and the United Arab Emirates are in orbit around Mars. The Chinese Tianwen-1 will send a probe down to the surface in a few weeks.
At its best such achievements are a pat on the back for what we can achieve with focus, finance and planning. We can explore beyond our planetary boundaries. We can be inspired by, and give life to, science fiction fantasy and then encourage more dreams of it.
We can also use similar approaches to explore our own past and even recreate it.
Last week scientists announced they had cloned the first US endangered species - a black-footed ferret - from the genes of an animal that died over 30 years ago.
Elizabeth Ann was born to a domestic ferret in Colorado but is a copy of Willa who died in 1988 and whose remains were frozen.
More astonishing is a link to the Ice Age outlined in new research.
The world's oldest DNA has been sequenced from a mammoth that roamed more than a million years ago. DNA in a tooth from the mammoth, which lived on Siberia's steppe, is giving scientists information about the evolution of the species.
The darker side of the discovery is that climate change has meant an increase in the number of ancient finds.
World's oldest DNA ever recovered found in 1.2 million-year-old mammoth remains https://t.co/UB3knWYwUk— Sky News (@SkyNews) February 17, 2021
Scientific achievements offer hope that there are potential solutions to seemingly impossible problems, such as climate change.
Yet they also set up a surreal contrast with how mired in the mud life often is.
While the US was celebrating the Mars landing, in Texas a winter storm left people without power for days.
Busted pipes have meant a shortage of clean drinking water. Dozens of people have died in the US freeze and Covid-19 vaccinations have been badly disrupted.
"This became a disaster because of human and infrastructure frailty, a lack of planning for the worst-case scenario and the enormity of the extreme weather," disaster science professor Jeannette Sutton of the University at Albany in New York told AP.
We are constantly finding evidence of the massive gap between what's possible and what's often more common reality.