On Monday night, NASA released its first high-quality video of the Perseverence Rover’s landing on Mars. The Perseverance rover landed last Thursday near an ancient river delta in Jezero Crater to search for signs of ancient microscopic life.
A moment of ecstasy for the team that had worked immensely hard on the project, the video featured a three-minute trailer showing the enormous orange and white parachute hurtling open and the red dust kicking up as rocket engines lowered the rover to the surface.
Released by the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, at a news conference, Dave Gruel, head of the entry and descent camera team said, “It gives me goosebumps every time I see it, just amazing.” As reported by the Associated Press, six off-the-shelf color cameras were devoted to entry, descent, and landing, looking up and down from different perspectives. All but one camera worked. The lone microphone turned on for landing failed, but NASA got some snippets of sound after touchdown: the whirring of the rover’s systems and wind gusts.
The rover will now spend the next two years exploring the dry river delta and drilling into rocks that may hold evidence of life 3 billion to 4 billion years ago. The core samples will be set aside for return to Earth in a decade.
Thomas Zurbuchen, NASA’s science mission chief, said the video and also the panoramic views following touchdown “are the closest you can get to landing on Mars without putting on a pressure suit.” The images will help NASA prepare for astronaut flights to Mars in the decades ahead, according to the engineers.
“I know it’s been a tough year for everybody,” said imaging scientist Justin Maki, “and we’re hoping that maybe these images will help brighten people’s days.”
To generate this hi-tech imagery, NASA added 25 cameras to the $3 billion mission — the most ever sent to Mars. The space agency’s previous rover, 2012’s Curiosity, managed less sophisticated images but is still working, along with NASA’s InSight lander, although it’s hampered by dusty solar panels.
The Perseverance rover may have company later this year when China attempts to land its own rover, which went into orbit around Mars two weeks ago.