A portion of a panorama made up of individual images taken by the Navigation Cameras.
Nasa has revealed video from its Mars landing, showing the Perseverance rover’s arrival at the red planet.
It is the first time that humanity has ever been able to see the arrival at Mars in such a way, thanks to a host of cameras that were mounted on board the vehicle.
The video shows the rover falling towards the planet, using its parachutes and engines to slow itself down, and then touching down on the floor.
As such, it offered “a glimpse of what it would be like to land in Jezer Crater”, said Matt Wallace, the deputy project manager for the mission.
It shows everything from the parachutes being deployed – while the rover is about seven miles above the surface – to the process of actually dropping onto the surface. In between, the heat shield and the protective backshell drop off, before the rover is lowered down by its jetpack-like descent stage, which uses rocket engines to safely lower it down.
The videos were taken using five commercial cameras that were attached to three different parts of the spacecraft. Two of them were on the backshell that protected the rover through its journey, and were able to capture pictures of the parachutes as they inflated; another on the descent stage was facing downwards and gave a look at the top of the rover; two more were on the rover itself, looking up and down.
“For those who wonder how you land on Mars – or why it is so difficult – or how cool it would be to do so – you need look no further,” said acting Nasa Administrator Steve Jurczyk.
“Perseverance is just getting started, and already has provided some of the most iconic visuals in space exploration history. It reinforces the remarkable level of engineering and precision that is required to build and fly a vehicle to the Red Planet.”
“This video of Perseverance’s descent is the closest you can get to landing on Mars without putting on a pressure suit,” said Thomas Zurbuchen, Nasa’s associate administrator for science.
“It should become mandatory viewing for young women and men who not only want to explore other worlds and build the spacecraft that will take them there, but also want to be part of the diverse teams achieving all the audacious goals in our future.”
Engineers noted that the video is largely “nice to have”, and was not a central part of the mission. While they will use the footage to analyse the vehicle, it is largely a way of allowing people to experience what it might be like to land on Mars, they said.
They also said that they had worked on the principle that the equipment should “do no harm” to the mission, or put its landing in any kind of danger. They also repeated the mantra “we get what we get”, they said, and that even if the camera system did not work at all then it would have been a success – such that “even one image” would be exciting”.
“Now we finally have a front-row view to what we call ‘the seven minutes of terror’ while landing on Mars,” said Michael Watkins, director of Nasa’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Southern California, which manages the mission for the agency. “From the explosive opening of the parachute to the landing rockets’ plume sending dust and debris flying at touchdown, it’s absolutely awe-inspiring.”
The team had hoped to use a built-in microphone collect audio for the first ever time. But that recording was not returned, they said.
While the audio recording is not usable, the microphone – a commercial, off-the-shelf device – did survive the journey to the ground and had managed to capture sound from the surface, Nasa said.
The arrival of the video and other data comes as the team continue to inspect the systems and surroundings of Perseverance. On Monday they will check on five of the rover’s seven instruments and start weather observations with the the Mars Environmental Dynamics Analyzer instrument, as well as looking forward to a new 360-degree panorama that will be the highest resolution image yet.
Nasa offers a number of ways for people to keep track of the rover as it journeys across the surface. It is uploading images as they appear, and Perseverance’s location can be tracked live.
Nasa has received thousands of pictures already and will be uploading them over the coming days, it said.
In a first, the Perseverance rover on Mars is set to deploy a mini-helicopter named Ingenuity that will fly and explore the Red Planet.
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