A still image from a video camera aboard NASA's Perseverance rover shows it descending down to touch Mars' surface. Reuters
Gulf Today Report
The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) scientists on Friday presented images which were taken at the very end of the so-called "seven-minutes-of-terror" descent sequence that brought the Mars rover Perseverance on the Red Planet.
Images include a selfie of the six-wheeled vehicle dangling just above the surface of the Red Planet moments before touchdown.
Perseverance travelled at 12,000 miles per hour to make a gentle touchdown on the floor of a vast basin called the Jezero Crater.
Next week, NASA hopes to present more photos and video - some possibly with audio - taken by all six cameras affixed to the descending spacecraft, showing more of the sky crane maneuvers, as well as the supersonic parachute deployment that preceded it.
The colour photograph, likely to become an instant classic among memorable images from the history of spaceflight, was snapped by a camera mounted on the rocket-powered "sky crane" descent-stage just above the rover as the car-sized space vehicle was being lowered on Thursday to Martian soil.
The image was unveiled by mission managers during an online news briefing webcast from NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) near Los Angeles less than 24 hours after the landing.
The picture, looking down on the rover, shows the entire vehicle suspended from three cables unspooled from the sky crane, along with an "umbilical" communications cord. Swirls of dust kicked up by the crane's rocket thrusters are also visible.
Seconds later, the rover was gently planted on its wheels, its tethers were severed, and the sky crane - its job completed - flew off to crash a safe distance away, though not before photos and other data collected during the descent were transmitted to the rover for safekeeping.
The image of the dangling science lab, striking for its clarity and sense of motion, marks the first such close-up photo of a spacecraft landing on Mars, or any planet beyond Earth.
"This is something we've never seen before," Aaron Stehura, a deputy lead for the mission's descent and landing team, describing himself and colleagues as "awe-struck" when first viewing the image.
Adam Steltzner, chief engineer for the Perseverance project at JPL, said he found the image instantly iconic, comparable to the shot of Apollo 11 astronaut Buzz Aldrin standing on the moon in 1969, or the Voyager 1 probe's images of Saturn in 1980.
He said the viewer is connected with a landmark moment representing years of work by thousands of individuals.
"Touchdown confirmed! Perseverance safely on the surface of Mars, ready to begin seeking signs of past life,” flight controller Swati Mohan announced to back-slapping, fist-bumping colleagues wearing masks against the coronavirus.
NASA have made it clear they want astronauts back on the Moon in 2024, and now, they are zeroing in on the Red Planet -- the US space agency confirmed that it wants humans to reach Mars by 2033.
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.
After hurtling hundreds of millions of miles through space since last summer, three robotic explorers are ready to hit the brakes at Mars. The stakes - and anxiety - are sky high. The United Arab Emirates’ orbiter reaches Mars on Tuesday, followed
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