NASA unveils never-before-seen video from Mars
Landing of rover on the red planet
Washington : After a long weekend without any updates or imagery from the Perseverance Mars rover, NASA released a spectacular bounty of video on Monday, including never-before-seen footage capturing the hair-raising descent to the surface of the red planet.
While previous landers captured still images during descent that later were stitched together to form a sort of stop-action movie, Perseverance was equipped with "ruggedized" off-the-shelf video cameras to shoot high-resolution imagery of the rover's plunge to landing on the floor of Jezero Crater.
Over the weekend, engineers at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, where Perseverance was built, downlinked 30 gigabytes of data from the rover, including 23,000 images and video frames. That allowed them to give the public a bird's eye view of a landing on Mars.
"This is the first time we've been able to actually capture an event like the landing of a spacecraft on Mars," said JPL Director Michael Watkins. "We will learn something by looking at the performance of the vehicle in these videos."
"But a lot of it is also to bring you along on our journey, our touchdown to Mars, and of course, our surface mission as well. These are really amazing videos."
One camera mounted on the back of Perseverance's flying saucer-like aeroshell captured crystal-clear views of the spacecraft's 70.5-foot-wide parachute unfurling in the supersonic slipstream, inflating in a half second to act as a 60,000-pound brake, slowing the craft from just under 1,000 mph to a more sedate 200 mph.
Equally spectacular views looking down showed the approaching ground below as the 1-ton rover swayed gently under the parachute. The rover then fell free and its rocket powered backpack fired up, guiding the craft to a hazard-free landing site it selected earlier.
Along with the unprecedented video, NASA also released more photos from the surface showing the rover's landing site in Jezero Crater, which once held a 28-mile-wide lake fed by a river that deposited sediments in a broad delta.
Cliffs marking the edge of that delta some 1.2 miles away to the northwest can be clearly seen by Perseverance's cameras.