After a long weekend without any updates or photos fromOn Monday, NASA released an amazing video bonus, including never-before-seen snapshots On the surface of the red planet.
While earlier landing craft captured still images during the landing that were later grouped together to form a kind of stop-motion film, the Tenacity was outfitted with «rugged» video cameras ready to take high-resolution images of the rover diving to land on the ground.
Over the weekend, engineers at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, where Perseverance was built, linked 30 gigabytes of data from the rover, including 23,000 photos and video frames. This allowed them to give the public a bird’s eye view of the Mars landing.
«This is the first time we’ve been able to capture an event like the landing of a spacecraft on Mars,» said Michael Watkins, director of the Jet Propulsion Laboratory. «We’ll learn something by looking at the vehicle’s performance in these videos. But a lot of that also aims to help you on our journey, our descent to Mars, and of course our surface mission as well. Amazing videos.»
A single camera mounted on the rear of Perseverance’s flying saucer AeroShell captured crystal-clear views of the spacecraft’s 70.5-foot-wide parachute rolling in its supersonic glide, inflating in half a second to act as a 60,000-pound brake, slowing down Vehicle. From under 1,000 mph to 200 mph more sober.
Equally breathtaking views, when looking down, showed the approaching ground below as the one-ton craft swayed gently under the parachute. Then the rover collapsed, and launched the missile-powered backpack, to guide the vehicle to a risk-free landing site it had chosen earlier.
As the persevering backpack lowered to the surface, the exhaust shafts from the ramp’s eight engines unleashed a vortex of dust that briefly blocked the landing craft. Then, with its wheels on the ground, the support cables were snapped and a camera on perseverance showed the backpack levitating away and flying out of sight.
Besides the unprecedented video, NASA also released more images from the surface showing the landing site of the probe at Jezero Crater, which once contained a 28-mile-wide lake fed by a river that led to sediment deposition in a vast delta. The cliffs pointing to the edge of that delta about 1.2 miles to the northwest can be clearly seen through Perseverance’s cameras.
Deputy Project Director Matt Wallace said the idea of placing video cameras on board the vehicle to document the vehicle’s entry, disembarkation and landing came after he bought his daughter a small sports camera that she wore on a belt while doing gymnastics.
He said, «I turned the back, and I don’t know about you, but I can’t do the back flip.» «But when you showed me the video … I had a glimpse of what it would be like if I could do a back flip. And that was the moment I was inspired by a phone call with my friend (persistent camera engineer) Dave Grohl, and that’s what led to this system.»
Along with 25 cameras, the rover also carries two microphones. One of them failed to act while descending, but the other caught the sounds of the Martian wind blowing past. NASA has released an excerpt of sound captured by the rover’s microphone — the first sound recorded on another planet.
The Perseverance was launched last July, and it reached Mars on Thursday, February 18th, plunging into the atmosphere for seven minutes.
The river and lake that fed it 3.5 billion years ago are gone long ago, but scientists say remnants of previous microbial life, if such life existed, may be preserved in lake bed sediments. Perseverance is the first lander to be sent to Mars specifically to search for such «biomarkers» and temporarily store soil and rock samples for eventual return to Earth.
Perseverance descent, such as the Curiosity landing before it, is known as «seven minutes of terror» because of the harsh entry environment and the numerous events that must occur on time and without interference from the ground to complete a successful descent.
Despite pre-landing promises that «raw» images from risk-avoidance cameras on the rover and others would be released upon arrival, fewer than six photos had been released by Friday evening and none had appeared over the weekend.
That alarmed space enthusiasts, but Thomas Zurbuchen, NASA’s director of science, tweeted Sunday and the focus was on downloading video on board and data about the health of the spacecraft’s systems.
“Since the landing of @ NASAPersevere, we have been prioritizing two types of data: first-of-its-kind snapshots of rover entry, landing and landing. And rover health and safety data and its subsystems,” he wrote on Twitter.
He later added, «I am very proud of this @ NASAPersevere team for working very hard and for being able to get things delivered to us ahead of schedule because they know the intense public interest.»