NASA's Perseverance rover has beamed back the first-ever photo of a Mars landing
- NASA's Perseverance rover has beamed back the first photo of its descent to Mars, a snapshot of the robot feet from landing.
NASAexpects a full video of landing soon, from six cameras on the rover.
- NASA also published the rover's first color images of the Martian surface.
NASA has released the first photo ever taken during a
The image, above, shows the Perseverance rover hanging below the jetpack that lowered it to the planet's surface on Thursday.
A camera on the bottom of the jetpack took the photo - it's one of six cameras built into the rover and its landing apparatus in order to record the entire descent and landing. The cameras' video footage of the landing could be available as early as Monday, since the rover is still beaming back its data.
As an early peak, NASA published a series of photos from the descent and the landing site on Friday.
"This is something that we've never seen before. It was stunning, and the team was awestruck, and you know there was just a feeling of victory that we were able to capture these and share it with the world," Aaron Stehura, deputy leader for the rover's entry, descent, and landing process, said in a briefing on Friday.
In the photo above, according to mission managers, the rover is probably about six feet (two meters) above the Martian surface. The jetpack's engines are kicking up plumes of dust.
"I did a double take and said 'that's the actual rover!' Just to think that the last time I saw the rover like this, it was in the high bay [at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory] is just incredible," Katie Stack Morgan, the mission's deputy project scientist, said in the briefing.
Now that Perseverance has survived its journey and stuck the landing, the rover is poised to spend the next two years scouring the river delta of Jezero Crater for signs of ancient alien life. The river that once flowed into the crater would have deposited mud and clay where it met the lake, and that may have trapped microbial life - if it ever existed.
Perseverance carries 43 vials for stashing samples of Martian rock and soil, including anything that looks like alien fossils. NASA plans to send another mission to bring those samples back to Earth in the 2030s.
The first photos of a Mars landing, up close and from space
On Thursday afternoon, the
Then the capsule deployed a 70-foot-wide parachute, slowing its fall to about 150 mph - twice the speed of a falling skydiver with no parachute.
Up in space, the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter spotted the capsule with the parachute falling toward Mars. It's unclear whether this photo was taken before or after the capsule dropped the rover, though.
After the parachute deployed, the capsule's heat shield fell away, exposing the rover's underside so that its cameras could assess the ground below. An onboard navigation system identified boulder fields, sand dunes, and 200-foot cliffs that could have spelled doom for Perseverance.
Once the capsule dropped the rover, a jetpack attached to the robot's back fired its engines and steered Perseverance to a safe, flat landing spot.
Hovering above the surface, the jetpack lowered Perseverance on 25-foot nylon cords until the rover's wheels touched the ground. That's when its camera captured that photo of the rover above the Martian surface.
The rover's first color images show rocks with holes
Perseverance will spend the next few weeks checking its systems, then it will initiate the first flight of an interplanetary helicopter - that vehicle is stored in the rover's belly. Mission managers expect the rover to start collecting rock samples in the summer.
But already, the first color images from Perseverance's
"As soon as we got that color image from the surface of Mars, our chats just lit up with the science team saying 'look over here and look over here,'" Stack Morgan said.
Mission managers think that in the image above, the 200-foot cliffs of the ancient river delta are peeking out on the horizon.
The image below shows some very holey rocks. Holes like that often appear in volcanic rocks, created by volcanic gases pushing through the rock. They can also show up in sedimentary rocks (like from the bottom of a lake), since liquid has tunneled through the rock.
"Depending on what the origin of these rocks is, these holes could mean different things. So we're excited to follow up on that and find out really what's going on here," Stack Morgan said.
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