Humanity has simply been given a front-row seat to a Mars touchdown, due to a high-resolution, full-colour video that NASA launched of its Perseverance rover descending into Jezero Crater on 18 February.
The video exhibits the drama of the spacecraft’s remaining descent, from the 21.5-metre-wide parachute billowing overhead to sluggish 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 variety—exhibits how Perseverance landed on Mars. As 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 at first of the descent. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech
“You are getting a glimpse into what it would be like to land successfully into Jezero Crater with Perseverance,” says Matt Wallace, the mission’s deputy venture supervisor on the Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in Pasadena, California. “This is the first time we’ve been able to see ourselves—to see our spacecraft—land on the surface of another planet.”
“These videos are the stuff of our dreams,” says Al Chen, an engineer at JPL who heads the entry, descent and touchdown staff 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 protect and different parts—unfold out throughout Jezero.
All techniques 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.
Initial pictures taken by the rover’s navigation cameras and stitched collectively right into a 360-degree panorama present the excessive cliffs of an historical river delta within the distance. That delta is the rationale NASA despatched Perseverance to Jezero, as a result of the rocks may include proof of fossilized microbial life from greater than 3.5 billion years in the past. Perseverance is at present 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 different colours that we see, and textures and tones,” says Ken Williford of JPL, the mission’s deputy venture scientist. Team geologists will research the rocks additional to know how they shaped, together with whether or not the holes within the ones close by shaped when gasoline burbled out of molten lava. That will enable scientists to piece collectively the geological historical past of the world.
A microphone on board Perseverance has additionally captured the sound of a 5-metre-per-second wind gust on the floor. It is the primary audio ever recorded on Mars, apart from seismic alerts from NASA’s InSight lander which were translated into audio.
In the approaching 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 various kinds of rock and amassing 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 article is reproduced with permission and was first printed on February 22 2021.