This is what it looks like to land on Mars.
NASA’s Perseverance rover captured this video on February 18 when a jetpack lowered it to the surface of the Red Planet.
“It gives me goosebumps every time I see it,” said engineer David Gruel of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif., At a press conference on February 22nd.
The film begins with the rover’s parachute opening over it as the rover and its landing gear enter the Martian atmosphere. Seconds later, a camera on the underside of the rover shows the heat shield falling to the ground. If you look closely, you can see that one of the springs that pushed the heat shield off the rover has come loose, said NASA engineer Allen Chen, the rover’s entry, descent, and landing ledge.
“There is no danger to the spaceship here, but we did not expect that and would not have seen it,” he said without the videos.
The rover filmed the ground as it came closer and closer, glimpsing a river delta, craters, waves and broken terrain. Cameras above and below the rover captured clouds of dust as the rover’s jetpack, the sky crane, lowered it to the ground with three cables. A camera on the sky crane showed the rover swinging slightly as it descended. Finally the sky crane disconnected the cables and flew away so Perseverance could begin its mission.
“It’s hard to express how emotional it was and how exciting it was for everyone,” said Matt Wallace, assistant project manager, for seeing the film for the first time. “Every time we got something, people were overjoyed and dizzy. They were like kids in a candy store. “
The film is so similar to the animations of the Sky Crane Landing technique that NASA had released in the past that it almost doesn’t look real, says imaging scientist Justin Maki. “I can testify that it is real,” he says. “It’s breathtaking and real.”
The rover also recorded audio from the surface of the red planet for the first time, including a gust of wind from Mars.
Perseverance ended up in an old lakeshore called Jezero Crater, about two kilometers from an old river delta that flows into the crater (SN: 02/18/21). The main task of the rover is to look for signs of past life and to temporarily store rock samples so that a future mission can return to Earth.
The first pictures Perseverance sent back from Mars showed its wheels on a flat surface. The ground is littered with stones riddled with holes, deputy project scientist Katie Stack Morgan said in a press conference on Feb.19.
“Depending on where the rocks come from, these holes can have different meanings,” she said. The science team believes the holes could be from gases escaping from the volcanic rock as lava cools, or from liquid moving through the rock and dissolving it. “Both would be equally exciting for the team.”