Last week the newest Martian resident arrived on the Red Planet, while missions from China and the UAE continue to orbit around the planet.
Unlike those two missions, NASA’s Perseverance rover was destined for the rocky ground of the Jezero Crater where it will collect and analyse soil samples among other things.
While this is nothing new, Perseverance is laying the ground work for soil samples from Mars to be sent back to Earth.
But Perseverance was also hiding a bit of a surprise.
The rover and its skycrane unit each had high definition cameras on board that allowed NASA to watch the landing in a level of detail we’ve not seen before. What is important to remember is that given the distance between Earth and Mars, Perseverance had to land autonomously.
The distance coupled with the difference in atmospheric pressure and gravity between Earth and Mars makes it especially difficult to land a spacecraft successfully.
“The real footage in this video was captured by several cameras that are part of the rover’s entry, descent, and landing suite. The views include a camera looking down from the spacecraft’s descent stage (a kind of rocket-powered jet pack that helps fly the rover to its landing site), a camera on the rover looking up at the descent stage, a camera on the top of the aeroshell (a capsule protecting the rover) looking up at that parachute, and a camera on the bottom of the rover looking down at the Martian surface,” NASA explained in a press release.
Thankfully, the company has shared this footage with the world and you can check out the landing from heatshield separation to landing below. What boggles our minds is that this video footage comes moments after the craft hit the Martian atmosphere at 19 743kph.
But wait, there’s more.
NASA has also published two audio clips that are definitely worth listening to. The first is audio that was captured by Perseverance’s microphones on 20th February. The second audio clip was recorded on 19th October, while the craft was travelling through space.
The second clip is eerily quiet save for the whirring of the rover’s heat rejection fluid pump but of course space is a vacuum where there is air to create wind. Still, it’s hard to imagine that audio came from a craft hurtling to another planet at nearly 20 000kph.
As you might be aware, Perseverance was harbouring a stowaway. That stowaway was the Ingenuity helicopter which will give researchers a better view of the Martian surface that rovers aren’t able to.
The helicopter is completely autonomous for the same reasons Perseverance’s landing is autonomous and weighs just 1.8kg.
While Ingenuity is yet to fly, when it does it will be a fantastic accomplishment not only for NASA but space exploration as a whole.
Another video worth watching is this panoramic shot of Mars taken from the rover.
For now we’re going to be watching that landing video over and over again.