It was “seven minutes of terror” that had a big payoff: NASA’s Mars Perseverance landed safely on the surface of the Red Planet last Thursday. And, for the first time, the descent to the edge of your seat was captured by high-definition video cameras, which NASA released on Monday.
“Now we finally have a front row view of what we call ‘the seven minutes of terror’ landing on Mars,” Michael Watkins, director of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in Southern California, which manages the mission for the agency. , said in a press release.
Getting a spaceship to Mars is no small feat. About half of the missions to the Red Planet ended in failure. And getting a rover safely on the surface is even more difficult. In the past, NASA used airbags that protected the rover as it bounced safely to its last point of rest.
But in 2012, its Curiosity rover used an innovative – and complicated – landing procedure that involved using a rocket-propelled crane to gently lower the rover to the surface. It was a success and this method was used again with Perseverance.
WATCH | NASA is releasing video of different perspectives of the Mars Perseverance landing:
“I think you’ll feel like you get a glimpse of what it would be like to land in Jezero Crater with Perseverance,” Matt Wallace, deputy director of the Perseverance project at JPL, said at the press conference. from NASA ahead of the video’s release on Monday. .
And the cameras indeed offer an incredible insight into the series of all the things that had to happen with incredible precision to deliver perseverance to the surface.
The video picks up after the rover entered the thin Martian atmosphere at a breakneck speed of 19,000 km / h, after which its supersonic parachute deployed, slowing it further to 320 km / h.
The heat shield is then released and is seen falling to the surface when the rover’s eight descent stage rockets take over, reducing speed to about 2.6 km / h. It was then that the delicate “skycrane” maneuver began.
The dusty descent
About 12 seconds before touchdown, the descent stage lowered the rover from a set of cables 6.4 meters long. Dust is thrown from the surface as the rover deploys its legs and wheels to the landing position. Once the rover felt it hit the ground, the cables were quickly cut with the descent stage flying safely away from the rover.
It all had to go off without a hitch. And thankfully it does, with a video to prove it.
Nominal = millions of things went well and we were able to get a rover out of Earth, into space, travel millions of miles, get to Mars, slow down thanks to transformers like landing , then to communicate with orbiters and a distant space network
The rover collected 23,000 images of the descent and 30 gigabytes of information with cameras looking both upward as the descent stage lowered Perseverance to the ground and downward as dust was blown up by the rockets.
“I can and have watched these videos for hours,” Al Chen, Perseverance Entrance, Descent and Landing (EDL) manager at JPL, said at the press conference. “I keep seeing new things every time.”
The microphone did not pick up the descent due to what engineers believe was a communications error, although it is now operating on the surface and returned audio.
LISTEN | Mars Perseverance Rover sounds (with rover noise filtering):
Along with the video, NASA also released several new images.
“I had no idea it would be this amazing,” said Justin Maki, Perseverance Imaging Scientist and Head of the Instrument Operations team. “When I saw these pictures come down, I have to say I was really amazed. I know this year has been difficult for everyone, and we hope these pictures will brighten people’s day.”
And there are even “Easter eggs” hidden on Perseverance.
The new 20 megapixel color cameras have a higher resolution than all the others, with wide angle lenses which are used as the engines of the mobile.
“That’s it. It’s Mars. It’s really the surface of an alien world.”
Now that more and more rovers are online, scientists and engineers have said more – and better – is yet to come.
Perseverance will also begin to find a suitable location where it deploys Ingenuity, a helicopter that will serve as a test for future missions to the Red Planet.
“We’re just starting to do some amazing things on the surface of Mars,” said Dave Gruel, Perseverance EDL Camera Manager.
For the raw images posted by NASA’s Perseverance rover, you can visit their multimedia site.