NASA has revealed the first ever audio recording and footage from its Mars Perseverance rover after a dramatic landing on the Red Planet.
The $2.4billion robot touched down last week after enduring “seven minutes of terror” as it plunged through the Martian atmosphere.
Footage of Perseverance Mars was shown by Nasa today following its successful landing on the Red Planet last week
Nasa staff celebrating the safe landing of the £2.4billion robot
Birds-eye view of Nasa’s Perseverance rover as its lowered to the surface of Mars by a spacecraft that assisted with the landingCredit: Nasa
The dramatic footage released Monday shows the rover falling towards the red planet while using a “sonic parachute” to slow itself down before landing on the planet’s dusty surface.
It is the first time that humanity has been able to see footage of a Mars landing thanks to the 19 cameras mounted onboard the rover.
“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,” Nasa’s acting administrator Steve Jurczyk said.
“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.”
The Navigation Cameras, or Navcams, aboard NASAs Perseverance Mars rover captured in this view of the rover’s deck on February 20Credit: EPA
The parachute as it deployed during last week’s landing
The six-wheeled machine is Nasa’s most complex Mars rover yet, sporting seven scientific instruments.
It successfully landed in the Jezero crater on February 18 after tearing through the atmosphere at over 12,000 miles per hour.
The spaceship first opened a sonic parachute to slow its speed before using a “jetpack” to guide itself to the surface.
The one-ton rover was then gently lowered to the ground using nylon cables attached to its hovering landing gear, known as the skycrane.
The skycrane then flew away to crash land a safe distance away.
A first look at the dusty surface of the Red Planet as the rover plunged through the Martian atmosphere
“This video of Perseverance’s descent is the closest you can get to landing on Mars without putting on a pressure suit,” said Nasa’s associate administrator for science Thomas Zurbuchen said.
“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.”
Over the next two years, Perseverance will scan Martian rock for signs of alien life and carry out tests that are key to future manned missions to the planet.
Nasa shared a sneak peak of the clip last week when they released a photo Perseverance suspended above Mars from its rocket-powered skycrane.
A panorama view of Mars’ surface taken by the Red Plant roverCredit: AFP
The first image of NASA’s Perseverance Rover on the surface of Mars from the High Resolution Imaging Experiment (HiRISE) camera aboard NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO)Credit: EPA
The Perseverance rover touched down on Mars last week (artist impression)
Perseverance beamed back this image of the Martian surface shortly after landing
The main camera – the most powerful ever landed on Mars – will snap photos and video of the Red Planet’s surface
It was filmed at the end of Perseverance’s self-guided landing, described by Nasa engineers as its “seven minutes of terror”.
“The moment that my team dreamed of for years, now a reality. Dare mighty things,” Nasa wrote in a post to the Perseverance Twitter account.
“This shot from a camera on my ‘jetpack’ captures me in midair, just before my wheels touched down.”
Perseverance is now sending data back to Earth via the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter spacecraft.
It takes photos, videos and other information roughly 11 minutes to travel through space to Nasa’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in California.
The nuclear battery-powered rover has landed at the edge of an ancient, long-vanished river delta and lake bed called the Jezero crater.
It’s thought that the basin was once filled with water and may have been home to alien microbes billions of years ago.
If that’s the case, traces of those microbes should still be present deep within the soil at Jezero – a bit like how dinosaur bones remain in Earth’s soil today.
The primary objective of Perseverance’s two-year mission – dubbed Mars 2020 – is to dig up soil samples that could contain all the proof we need that life grows on other planets.
The samples will be collected by a separate spacecraft due to arrive at Mars in 2028. They will be analysed by scientists when they arrive bac at Earth in the 2030s.
In an interview ahead of the landing last week, Nasa Chief Scientist James Green laid out his hopes for the project.
“We want to search the past from the rock record to see if Mars could have supported life,” he said on Neil DeGrasse Tyson’s podcast, StarTalk.
“My secret wish is that we find it. We don’t anticipate getting fossils, but there are potential cells or microbial indications that life could have survived on Mars in its early history.”
The Ingenuity helicopter will perform the first powered flight on Mars
Perseverance – What’s on board?
Perseverance boasts a total of 19 cameras and two microphones, and carries seven scientific instruments.
- Planetary Instrument for X-Ray Lithochemistry (PIXL)
An X-ray “ray gun” that will help scientists investigate the composition of Martian rock.
2. Radar Imager for Mars’ subsurface experiment (RIMFAX)
A ground-penetrating radar that will image buried rocks, meteorites, and even possible underground water sources up to a depth of 10 metres (33ft).
3. Mars Environmental Dynamics Analyzer (MEDA)
A bunch of sensors that will take readings of temperature, wind speed and direction, pressure, and other atmospheric conditions.
4. Mars Oxygen ISRU Experiment (MOXIE)
An experiment that will convert Martian carbon dioxide into oxygen. A scaled-up version could be used in future to provide Martian colonists with breathable air.
A suite of instruments for measuring the makeup of rocks and regolith at a distance
A camera system capable of taking “3D” images by combining two or more photos into one.
7. Scanning Habitable Environments with Raman and Luminescence for Organics and Chemicals (SHERLOC)
From Baker Street to Mars: Sherloc contains an ultraviolet laser that will investigate Martian rock for organic compounds.
Advanced power tools will drill samples from Martian rock and seal them into dozens of cigar-sized tubes for eventual return to Earth for further analysis.
Provided all goes to plan, they will be the first such specimens ever collected by humankind from the surface of another planet.
Two future missions to retrieve those samples and fly them back to Earth are in the planning stages by Nasa, in collaboration with the European Space Agency.
Another of the Mars mission’s headline experiments involves a small, drone helicopter named Ingenuity.
Strapped to the bottom of Perseverance, the lightweight craft will attempt the first ever powered flight on Mars in the coming months.
If successful, the four-pound (1.8-kg) whirlybird could pave the way for low-altitude aerial surveillance of Mars during later missions.
Other key equipment on board the $2.2billion rover include two microphones that will capture the first audio recordings from the Martian surface, as well as a potentially groundbreaking experiment called Moxie.
Moxie (Mars Oxygen ISRU Experiment) is a small contraption housed in the belly of the rover that will convert a small amount of atmospheric carbon dioxide into oxygen.
It’s a 1/200 scale test model of a design that may be used on Mars to provide future colonists with breathable air.
In other news, you can catch up with all the latest on the Mars 2020 mission on our Perseverance liveblog.
Space geeks have revealed stunning 4K footage of Mars captured by Nasa’s Curiosity rover.
And, Elon Musk has warned that humanity may “self-extinguish” before we can colonise Mars.
What do you make of Nasa’s Mars mission? Let us know in the comments!
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