Humanity has simply been given a front-row seat to a Mars touchdown, because of a high-resolution, full-colour video that NASA launched of its Perseverance rover descending into Jezero Crater on 18 February.
The video reveals the drama of the spacecraft’s remaining descent, from the 21.5-metre-wide parachute billowing overhead to gradual it down, to the dusty orange panorama of Jezero gently rocking beneath as Perseverance drifted downwards, to the ultimate moments when the rover’s six corrugated wheels touched down on a flat, rock-studded floor.
This video—the primary of its sort—reveals how Perseverance landed on Mars. Because it whizzes towards the floor, it deploys a parachute, then the sky crane fastidiously lowers the rover to the touchdown web site, kicking up mud and particles within the course of. The footage was captured by a number of cameras mounted on the rover, the sky crane and a shell that protected the rover initially of the descent. Credit score: NASA/JPL-Caltech
“You might be getting a glimpse into what it could be prefer to land efficiently into Jezero Crater with Perseverance,” says Matt Wallace, the mission’s deputy challenge supervisor on the Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in Pasadena, California. “That is the primary time we’ve been capable of see ourselves—to see our spacecraft—land on the floor of one other planet.”
“These movies are the stuff of our desires,” says Al Chen, an engineer at JPL who heads the entry, descent and touchdown workforce for Perseverance.
From above, NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter, which launched in 2005 to check the planet’s geology, photographed the particles from the touchdown—the discarded parachute, warmth defend and different parts—unfold out throughout Jezero.
All methods on board the rover are working as deliberate, says JPL’s Jessica Samuels, the rover’s surface-mission supervisor. Over the weekend, it switched on its high-gain antenna, to speak extra effectively with Earth, and raised a tall mast laden with cameras to survey its environment.
Preliminary photographs taken by the rover’s navigation cameras and stitched collectively right into a 360-degree panorama present the excessive cliffs of an historic river delta within the distance. That delta is the reason NASA sent Perseverance to Jezero, as a result of the rocks would possibly include proof of fossilized microbial life from greater than 3.5 billion years in the past. Perseverance is at the moment about 2 kilometres away from the delta.
The rocks on the floor close to the touchdown web site are available a number of varieties, from small, light-coloured ones studded with holes near the rover, to bigger, darker-coloured variations farther away. “We’re noticing the totally different colors that we see, and textures and tones,” says Ken Williford of JPL, the mission’s deputy challenge scientist. Group geologists will research the rocks additional to know how they fashioned, together with whether or not the holes within the ones close by fashioned when gasoline burbled out of molten lava. That can enable scientists to piece collectively the geological historical past of the realm.
A microphone on board Perseverance has also captured the sound of a 5-metre-per-second wind gust on the floor. It’s the first audio ever recorded on Mars, aside from seismic alerts from NASA’s InSight lander which have been translated into audio.
Within the coming days, Perseverance will straighten up its wheels and do a brief drive, earlier than unfolding and testing its robotic arm, which is laden with scientific devices. Over the approaching months and years, the rover will drive many kilometres, drilling into several types of rock and gathering samples of them. Future missions are deliberate to retrieve these specimens and convey them again to Earth, no sooner than 2031, for the first-ever pattern return from Mars.
This text is reproduced with permission and was first published on February 22 2021.