The US space agency NASA has released first-of-its-kind footage of the Perseverance spacecraft landing on Mars last week.
Stunning video released by NASA on Friday shows the views from two cameras on the spacecraft – one pointed up and one pointed down – that recorded the terrifying moments from when it deployed its landing parachute about 10 kilometers above the Martian surface until it touched down on the red planet’s surface a little over three minutes later.
At a press conference, scientists at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory described the cameras as a “nice to have” item not totally necessary for its scientific mission of hunting for evidence of ancient microbial life in Jezero Crater, but still something that nonetheless proved to have “real scientific value.”
While the microphone attached to the landing cameras failed to function, another microphone on the rover itself is working, and the scientists also released audio captured by it, which is the first time sound has been recorded on the surface of an extraterrestrial body.
The landing occurred on what was February 18 back home on Earth.
The video begins about 10 kilometers up, just after the “seven minutes of terror,” during which no contact with the spacecraft was possible. However, even during this phase, Earth was too far away to be driven by NASA scientists, so onboard AI guided the spacecraft down itself. Perseverance jettisoned its heat shield and deployed a parachute to slow its descent, but it was still moving at several dozen meters per second.
Stabilizing rockets helped slow its descent further until just a few meters above the Martian surface, where the “sky crane” dropped the SUV-sized Perseverance rover down onto the surface before floating away.
Once on the surface, the rover deployed its own cameras and took a few photos of Jezero Crater, which astronomers believe was a sea billions of years ago, when Mars still had flowing liquid water.
NASA said many more images and recordings will be released in the coming days.