NASA releases 360–degree panorama of Perseverance rover landing site
NASA has released the first HD 360-degree panorama taken by the Perseverance rover's mast-mounted cameras since it touched down on the Red Planet on Feb. 18, 2021 . The composite image, which was captured on the third Martian day of the mission (Sol 3), is the first of many that the rover will take as it unravels the secrets still harbored by the Red Planet.
Putting a rover on Mars is a monumentally difficult task, even for the greatest minds that our planet has to offer. Years of hard work and hundreds of millions of dollars went into the design, construction and launch of the next-generation robotic explorer. Its mission – after surviving the rigors of launch, a protracted journey through the frigid environment of space, and the terrors of landing – is to explore an impact site known as Jezero Crater in search of signs of ancient life.
Following the release of high-resolution still images of the rover's and the dramatic video footage from which it was taken, the latest missive from Mars is a HD panorama of the Jezero Crater landing site that was stitched together from shots captured by the uncrewed explorer on Feb. 20, 2021.
A grand total of 142 images were captured by the rover’s zoomable Mastcam–Z camera system and combined to create the collage. In the coming years, the cameras will be used to take detailed, high-resolution shots of atmospheric conditions and rocks on the barren planet’s surface that may harbor clues as to whether life once existed on Mars. Some of the samples identified by the mast-mounted cameras will also be packaged up and left for future missions to return to Earth for a laboratory analysis.
The mast-mounted cameras are capable of revealing details in the Martian landscape near the rover that are no bigger than 3 to 5 mm across, while terrain features in the distance, such as the crater rim can be seen down to a width of 6.5 to 10 ft (2 to 3 m).
Over the coming years Perseverance will take many panoramas of the Red Planet. But it wont explore alone. One of the most exciting highlights of the coming mission will be the launch of the Ingenuity helicopter, which, if all goes to plan, will become the first aircraft to undertake a powered flight above the Martian surface when it lifts off later this year.
The helicopter, which recently sent a signal to NASA assuring its handlers that it was in good health, will briefly provide a new perspective of the Martian surface, and serve as a technology demonstrator for future aerial robotic exploration of Mars.