NASA released the first high-quality video of a spacecraft landing on Mars on Monday, a three-minute trailer showing the huge orange and white parachute opening and red dust rising as the rocket engines lowered the rover to the surface.
The US space agency also released an audio clip of the Red Planet. You can hear a slight crackling wind sound recorded by the transducer.
The pictures were so good – and the pictures breathtaking – that the rover team members said they felt like they were driving.
“It gives me goosebumps every time I see it, just amazing,” said Dave Gruel, Entry and Descent Camera Team Leader.
The Perseverance rover landed near an ancient river delta in Jezero Crater last Thursday to look for signs of ancient microscopic life. After spending the weekend watching the descent and landing video, the team at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif., Shared the video at a press conference.
“These videos and images are part of our dreams,” said Al Chen, who was in charge of the landing team.
Six commercially available color cameras were dedicated to entering, descending, and landing, looking up and down from different angles. All but one of the cameras worked. The only microphone activated for the landing failed, but NASA received a few snippets of sound after touchdown: the roar of the rover’s systems and gusts of wind.
Flight controllers were delighted with the thousands of images returned – and also with the excellent condition of NASA’s largest and most capable rover to date. He will spend the next two years exploring the Dry River Delta and drilling for rocks that may contain traces of life 3-4 billion years ago. The core samples will be set aside for return to Earth in a decade.
NASA added 25 cameras to the $ 3 billion (roughly Rs. 21,710 crore) mission – the most ever sent to Mars. The space agency’s previous rover, Curiosity from 2012, only handled choppy and grainy frame-by-frame images, mostly of terrain. Curiosity always works. The same goes for NASA’s InSight lander, although it is hampered by dusty solar panels.
They may have company in late spring when China attempts to land its own rover, which orbiting Mars two weeks ago.
Assistant project director Matt Wallace said he was inspired several years ago to film the heart-wrenching descent of Perseverance when his young gymnast girl carried a camera while performing a backflip.
Some of the spacecraft systems – like the sky crane used to lower the rover to the Martian surface – could not be tested on Earth.
“So this is the first time we’ve had the chance, as engineers, to see what we’ve designed,” Wallace told reporters.
Thomas Zurbuchen, head of the NASA science mission, said the video as well as the panoramic views after touchdown “are the closest to landing on Mars without putting on a pressure suit.”
The images will help NASA prepare for astronaut flights to Mars in the decades to come, engineers say.
There is a more immediate benefit.
“I know this has been a tough year for everyone,” said Justin Maki, imaging scientist, “and we hope that maybe these images will help brighten people’s days.”
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