The stunning burst of media — including the first-ever audio recording on the desert planet — captured by Perseverance provides a front-row view of the barren planet where scientists hope to uncover evidence of ancient life.
(CN) — NASA scientists Monday shared the first images of Mars’ Jezero Crater beamed back to Earth by Perseverance, broadcasting to the world the first scenes of the high-tech astrobiologist’s exploration of the Martian landscape.
On Feb. 18, Perseverance successfully executed its long-awaited landing on the red planet to begin its mission of collecting soil and rock samples to bring back to Earth.
The tense, seven-minute descent through the Martian atmosphere and the rover’s coordinated landing on the red soil culminated a seven-month, 293-million-mile journey.
NASA hopes the samples pulled from what scientists believe was once a flourishing river delta and lake on Mars will contain evidence of ancient microbial life.
In a virtual broadcast Monday, NASA scientists and engineers proudly displayed the collection of media Perseverance recorded during the “seven minutes of terror” in the entry, descent, and landing (EDL) in Jezero Crater.
After the heat shield detached and the craft slowed to subsonic speed, its radar and camera locked onto the surface as jets guided the rover to the crater.
At seven miles from the surface, high-definition cameras aboard the rover and the spacecraft carrying it captured deployment of its massive parachute — the largest ever sent to another world — and the dramatic scenes of the red planet below.
NASA engineer Allen Chen, who directed Perseverance’s descent to Mars, said in the broadcast that none of the two miles of cables attached to the parachute — which was packed so tightly it had the same density as oak wood — tangled during the “dynamic” landing.
“We hope our efforts and engineering can inspire others,” Chen said.
The video ends with Perseverance’s aluminum wheels touching down on the surface and the still-hovering descent crane flying away from the landing site.
“It gives me goosebumps every time I see it,” Dave Gruel, lead engineer for Perseverance’s EDL media system, said in the broadcast.
The team also played a clip from the first-ever audio recording on Mars.
About 10 seconds into the minute-long recording, a Martian breeze is audible for a few seconds. But Gruel said that the system unfortunately failed to capture a sound recording of the landing itself.
“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,” Gruel said in a statement released Monday. “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.”
NASA members invited the public to delve into the initial batch of images and sound recordings and to treat the experience as a kind of front-row exploration of the cold desert world.
“This video of Perseverance’s descent is the closest you can get to landing on Mars without putting on a pressure suit,” Thomas Zurbuchen, NASA associate administrator for science, said in the broadcast. “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.”
In a sign of the times, one NASA engineer invited people to download their favorite images snapped by Perseverance to use as a backdrop for the now-widely used virtual meeting rooms people are gathering on during the pandemic.
Acting NASA administrator Steve Jurczyk said in a statement the images were stunning and that Perseverance is laying critical foundations for future missions to Mars.
“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,” 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.”