Since its successful landing on February 18 in Jezero Crater, mission scientists for the Perseverance rover have been providing updates on the status of the rover, and so far everything seems to continue to go well. Today, NASA held a media briefing to show the amazing video footage of the landing, new images from the surface and even the first-ever audio!
“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 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.”
After the first three raw Hazcam images were released just minutes after touchdown, four more were made public, and they are amazing. One shows a stunning color view of the rover from above while it was descending to the ground on cables attached to the descent stage for the sky crane maneuver. That image is part of the new video taken by the cameras during the descent stage, known as Entry, Descent and Landing (EDL).
Another color image showed pitted rocks next to one of the rover’s wheels on the ground, another showed a view to the horizon, and the fourth incredible photo, a still from the video, captured the rover hanging beneath its parachute, as seen by the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter.
As of now, 2,861 raw images have been released, from the rover’s Hazcam and Navcam cameras. These cameras are much newer than the ones on Curiosity, and it shows in the photos, which are amazingly detailed for generally lower-res images. Since they are so good, the high-res ones still to come from the other Mastcam-Z cameras should be spectacular.
NASA also released the first-ever audio recorded on the surface of Mars, recorded on Feb. 20, 2021. In the first set, sounds from the rover itself dominate. In the second set, the sound was filtered to make sounds from Mars more audible. There is a little wind in the second set. You can hear them below:
“We put the EDL camera system onto the spacecraft not only for the opportunity to gain a better understanding of our spacecraft’s performance during entry, descent, and landing, but also because we wanted to take the public along for the ride of a lifetime – landing on the surface of Mars,” said Dave Gruel, lead engineer for Mars 2020 Perseverance’s EDL camera and microphone subsystem at JPL. “We know the public is fascinated with Mars exploration, so we added the EDL Cam microphone to the vehicle because we hoped it could enhance the experience, especially for visually-impaired space fans, and engage and inspire people around the world.”
Perseverance also has a companion, a small drone-like helicopter called Mars Helicopter, or as it’s better known, Ingenuity. The mission team just received its first radio signal from the helicopter, indicating that it is in good health. The downlink arrived the same day at 3:30 pm PST (6:30 pm EST) via a connection through the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter.
Ingenuity is currently still attached to the base of the rover, and will remain there for the next 30-60 days.
In the coming weeks, Ingenuity will conduct a series of short test flights that will gradually get longer and higher. If it works, it will be the first-ever powered flight in the Martian atmosphere, or the atmosphere of any other planet.
“There are two big-ticket items we are looking for in the data: the state of charge of Ingenuity’s batteries as well as confirmation the base station is operating as designed, commanding heaters to turn off and on to keep the helicopter’s electronics within an expected range,” said Tim Canham, Ingenuity Mars Helicopter operations lead at JPL. “Both appear to be working great. With this positive report, we will move forward with tomorrow’s charge of the helicopter’s batteries.”
“We are in uncharted territory, but this team is used to that,” said MiMi Aung, project manager for the Ingenuity Mars Helicopter at JPL. “Just about every milestone from here through the end of our flight demonstration program will be a first, and each has to succeed for us to go on to the next. We’ll enjoy this good news for the moment, but then we have to get back to work.”
Perseverance’s primary mission is to search for evidence of ancient microbial life. Jezero Crater was once a lake a few billion years ago, and the rover will study the sediments, carbonates and clays that are still present. There is even an old river delta, which the rover landed close to, that was formed by a river that once emptied into the lake.
Stay tuned for more images and updates as they become available!
Perseverance was launched on July 30, 2020 onboard an Atlas V 541 rocket, from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida.
More information about Perseverance is available on the mission website.