- Jonathan Amos
- BBC Science Correspondent
an hour ago
NASA (United States Space Agency) has released amazing videos and photos showing the landing of the Perseverance rover on Planet Mars.
The documentation reveals the last-minute goosebumps of Perseverance’s landing last week, to the point where the rover’s wheels hit the ground.
This series of scenes shows a swirl of dust and sand as Perseverance lands on the floor of Jezero Crater.
The rover is equipped with a number of cameras, seven of which are dedicated to recording the landings.
The recorded images provide important input to engineers in terms of increasing use of the technology used to land rovers onto the surface of the Red planet.
Mike Watkins, director of the Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in California, which is home to NASA’s Mars mission control, said the spectacular video was the agency’s best example.
“We have taken everyone with us on our journey across the Solar System, through the Saturn ring, looking back at the ‘Pale Blue Dots’ and the incredible panorama on the surface of Mars,” he told reporters.
“This is the first time we have been able to capture an event such as a spacecraft landing on Mars,” he continued.
“We will learn something by looking at vehicle performance in these videos. But there are many that will also take you on our journey.”
All cameras used in the landings are rugged and ready-to-use sports cameras, with almost no modifications.
The cameras are positioned to capture key events – from the release of the supersonic parachute, the release of the capsule heat shield and the flight of the support vehicle after removing a Perseverance or “sky crane”, to the landing and dumping of the support vehicle.
The scene occurred in roughly the last four minutes of the seven-minute rover’s landing.
“We collected more than 30 gigabyte information, and more than 23,000 images of vehicles that land on the surface of Mars, “explained Dave Gruel of JPL.
One of the three cameras pointing towards the parachute didn’t work, but the other six cameras worked perfectly.
NASA also hoped to record landing sounds with a microphone, but unfortunately these attempts were unsuccessful.
However, the team managed to operate the microphones in the field so it is possible to hear Perseverance perform exploratory work in the coming weeks.
The muffled wind sound at Jezero Crater was replayed.
Many videos have been made on Mars before, but most of them come from low resolution images – better known as “stop motion”. Perseverance on the other hand offers stunning clarity and detail.
“It gives me goosebumps every time I see it – it’s just amazing,” said Gruel.
Over the weekend, the Perseverance navigation poles, which have been kept horizontal since leaving Earth last year, were raised vertically.
This allowed the main science camera at the top of the mast, the Mastcam-Z system, to begin constructing panoramas of the surrounding terrain at Jezero and the cruiser’s own deck.
This latter mosaic wanted to look for the damage that the flying stone might cause during the landing.
This week, these controllers will perform the critical task of switching the Perseverance software from software that safely brings it to the Martian surface to devices that allow robots to explore and use equipment such as its robotic arms.
This will likely take four Martian days, or Sols (a Martian day lasts 24 hours and 39 minutes). We’ll probably see wheels sway and the first test ride a few meters over the weekend.
There is great interest in mini helicopters traveling with cruisers. The 2-kilogram device will make another world’s first flight.
But first Perseverance needs to find the right place to put this plane to carry out its experiments.
Mission planners said Friday that it will take several weeks before the robots reach this selected location, meaning it will probably be in April before Ingenuity, as the tiny helicopter is called, flies into the sky.
360 degree view of Jezero Crater created by explorer Perseverance
NASA’s satellite, the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter, has identified and photographed the hardware removed from the landing.
“The descent stage (sky crane) is about 700 meters from where Perseverance is on the surface. The parachute is about 1.2 kilometers and heatshield about 1.5 kilometers. And it’s really interesting that we can see all of these different components, “said Jessica Samuels, Perseverance surface mission manager.
The robot’s landing site is within an area of 1.2 kilometers by 1.2 kilometers which the science team informally calls the Canyon de Chelly, after the National Monument in the State of Arizona, USA.
Perseverance resides on a flat patch of land at the border of two geological units – a smooth unit under the wheels of a vehicle containing what may be dark volcanic rock; and coarser units that have rocks with a lot of the mineral olivine in them.
About 2 kilometers to the northwest is what the satellite imagery shows as the remains of a delta that formed when Jezero was filled by a giant lake billions of years ago.
Delta is created when rivers enter wider bodies of water and dump mud and sand. It is in this sediment that Perseverance will look for signs of past microbial activity.