After a journey lasting seven months, the Perseverance rover touched down on the floor of Mars final week. And in its first few days, it’s already despatched us Earthlings some detailed pictures of the crimson world.
On Monday, NASA launched a video displaying Perserverance’s first glimpses of the Martian panorama because it descended to the western fringe of a crater referred to as Jezero, named after a city in Bosnia-Herzegovina. NASA and JPL selected Jezero as a result of one other probe, the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter, seemed on the crater and located traces of clay—a cloth that wants water with a view to type. Therefore, scientists consider that some 3.5 billion years in the past, Jezero was the mattress of a primordial lake. If life ever fashioned on Mars, this may be a terrific place for it to have thrived.
NASA additionally launched Perseverance’s first full-color, high-definition picture of its new residence. You can see some hills peeking from the backdrop: they’re truly a 3-billion-year-old shoreline. In reality, scientists suppose that these specific slopes have been as soon as a delta, the place a river met the lake that changed into Jezero Crater and deposited layers of sediment onto each the shore and the lakebed. Perseverance, if it could actually discover a method up, might discover that delta. And if you happen to look from above, you possibly can nonetheless see the ghost of that river to Jezero’s west, a channel referred to as Neretva Valles.
This hi-def picture was taken with considered one of Perseverance’s visible-light Hazard Avoidance Cameras, or Hazcams, which sit on the rover’s back and front and assist the rover navigate itself. The Hazcams additionally assist controllers again on Earth see what’s across the rover, just like the rear-view digital camera in your automotive. The video, in the meantime, was shot utilizing a number of different high-definition visible-light cameras, together with one connected to the “skycrane” that helped decrease Perseverance to the floor.
You may discover that the panorama is strewn with little rocks. Scientists aren’t positive how these rocks fashioned; they might have been deposited there by the river, or they could have been birthed from now-dead volcanoes, whose ash might need been carried throughout the crimson planet by the Martian winds. That’s one thing Perseverance might uncover. And don’t fear about Perseverance getting a flat tire—these rocks aren’t any impediment for the wheels of a rover that’s the scale of a giant automotive.
Perseverance’s mission, if all goes in response to plan, will lengthy outlast the rover itself. A future mission is primed to gather among the rover’s rock and soil samples from Jezero later within the 2020s, earlier than bringing them again to Earth in order that scientists can seek for maybe the holiest of Martian holies: traces of extraterrestrial life.