NASA has released fantastic new photographs from Perseverance, including one of the rover that is gently lowered to the surface of Mars by a set of cables, the first time such a view has been captured.
The high resolution was still extracted from a video taken of the spacecraft’s descent phase that had transported the rover from Earth.
At that moment, the descent phase used its six-engine jetpack to slow down to a speed of about 2.7 kilometers per hour as part of the “sky crane maneuver”, the last landing phase.
“This is something we’ve never seen before,” said Aaron Stehura, deputy leader of the mission’s landing and landing team.
Adam Steltzner, chief engineer of the Perseverance project, said he found the image directly iconic, comparable to the image of Apollo 11 astronaut Buzz Aldrin on the moon in 1969, or the Voyager 1 probe’s images of Saturn in 1980.
“You can see the dust being kicked up by the rover’s engines,” he said, estimating that the shot was taken about two meters (six feet) or so above the ground.
Steltzner said the image helped viewers join a landmark that represents many years of work by thousands of individuals.
“You were taken to the surface of Mars. You’re sitting there, seven feet from the surface of the rover, looking down,” he said. “It’s absolutely exciting, and it’s encouraging for the other images from our experience as people moving out in our solar system.”
Another new image, taken by the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter, captures endurance as it parachutes through the atmosphere hundreds of miles per hour.
Endurance has also been able to upload its first high-resolution color photo showing the flat region it landed in in the Jezero crater, where a river and a deep lake existed billions of years ago.
A second color image shows one of the rovers’ six wheels, with several honeycomb stones believed to be more than 3.6 billion years old next to it.
A color image sent by Persverance shows one of the rovers’ six wheels with stones believed to be more than 3.6 billion years old next to it. © NASA, AFP
“One of the questions we will ask first is whether these rocks represent a volcanic or sedimentary origin,” said NASA Assistant Project Researcher Katie Stack Morgan.
Volcanic rocks in particular can be dated with very high precision when the samples are returned to Earth on a future return mission – an exciting development from a planetary science perspective.
When the first pictures came in, “it was exciting, the team went wild,” said mission operations chief Pauline Hwang.
“The science team immediately started looking at all these rocks and zooming in and going, ‘What is it!’ “- it could not have been better.”
The first two images were released on Thursday shortly after the rover landed, but they had lower resolution and in black and white due to the limited available data speed.
NASA hopes to have more high-resolution images and videos in the coming days, but does not yet know if it has successfully recorded sound on Mars for the first time with microphones.
It may be known later this weekend or early next week, Steltzner said.
( Jowharwith AFP, REUTERS)