Jason Davis • Feb 22, 2021
Perseverance Firsts: The Best Moments from NASA's Mars Rover Landing
The nail-biting drama of a Mars landing can now be experienced like never before, thanks to a treasure trove of imagery and sound captured by NASA's Perseverance rover.
Perseverance's impressive suite of cameras and microphones captured the drama before, during, and after the spacecraft's successful landing on 18 February. An armada of orbiting spacecraft that tuned in to the landing from above are relaying gobs of data back to Earth, revolutionizing our view of Mars.
The Landing Video
Perseverance's much-anticipated landing videos are as spectacular as advertised. They represent an extraordinary leap forward in how future generations will visualize what it means to explore our solar system and beyond.
NASA associate administrator Thomas Zurbuchen said during a press conference that the landing video should become "mandatory viewing" for young people, and we at The Planetary Society couldn't agree more.
Perseverance Rover Landing Videos Multiple cameras aboard NASA's Perseverance rover captured the spacecraft's descent to Mars on 18 February 2021. This video combines the views and synchronizes them with audio callouts from mission control.Video: NASA/JPL-Caltech
The Sound of Mars
For the first time ever, we have actual sounds from another planet.
Perseverance has two microphones, one of which attempted to record the sounds of the rover plummeting through the Martian atmosphere. NASA says that microphone did not collect any usable data during descent, but it did record some ambient sounds after landing on 20 February.
In this first audio clip from Mars, you'll hear the whirring sound of the rover itself, followed by the low whoosh of a gentle Martian breeze.
NASA also released a version that digitally removes the rover's mechanical sounds:
The Planetary Society has advocated for microphones on Mars since 1996, when co-founder Carl Sagan urged NASA to include them on a future mission. In 1999 we flew a crowdfunded microphone to Mars aboard NASA's Mars Polar Lander, which sadly crashed on the surface.
The View from Above
Just as it did for Phoenix and Curiosity, NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter caught a stunning image of Perseverance floating to the surface under parachute.
A few orbits later, the long-lived spacecraft looked down again and spotted the aftermath of Perseverance's landing, including the rover itself safe and sound on the surface.
The First 360° View
Moments after landing, Perseverance began capturing images of its forever home in Jezero crater. Jezero is the site of an ancient river delta that once fed a Martian lake. On Earth, similar river deltas preserve a story of the past and signs of ancient life.
Perseverance panorama in 3D NASA's Perseverance rover captured the images used to create this 360-degree view of its surroundings on 20 February 2021. Please note: Not all browsers support viewing 360 videos. YouTube supports their playback on computers using Chrome, Firefox, Internet Explorer, and Opera browsers. For best experience on a mobile device, play this video in the YouTube app.Video: NASA/JPL-Caltech
The Rover's Eyes Open
After raising its long mast, Perseverance booted up the pair of color cameras called Mastcam-Z that serve as its main set of science eyes. Mastcam-Z's first order of business was imaging the calibration targets that will help scientists understand how conditions on Mars impact what the cameras see.
The calibration targets were designed in collaboration with The Planetary Society, which serves as the Mastcam-Z instrument's official education and outreach partner. Our organization also helped design the calibration targets on NASA's Spirit and Opportunity rovers.
The Easter Egg
NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, which manages the mission, hid an easter egg in Perseverance's parachute. Can you figure it out?
Click here if you need a hint. The Planetary Society's Red Rover Goes to Mars contest similarly challenged the public to find secret messages in the DVDs sent to Mars aboard NASA's Spirit and Opportunity rovers.
There's much more to come from Perseverance as it searches for past life on Mars and collects soil and rock samples for future return to Earth. Stay up to date on Perseverance and other missions by signing up for The Downlink, our weekly newsletter!
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