Dramatic multi-cam video shows Perseverance rover's landing on Mars
NASA has released a new video that includes historic color, high-resolution footage from multiple cameras on the Mars 2020 spacecraft as it delivered the Perseverance rover to the surface of the Red Planet last week.
Spacecraft have been successfully landing on Mars for 45 years but, until now, we've never seen one actually landing. The Curiosity rover sent back a jerky, low-resolution animation made of images showing its point of view as it descended on Mars, but Perseverance has gone one better by using five high-resolution cameras spread throughout the spacecraft – each with its own perspective.
What's equally remarkable is that the five cameras are off-the-shelf commercial models that were installed on three of the Mars 2020 modules. Two sat on the back shell of the cocoon that protected Perseverance on its voyage from Earth and during its fiery descent through the Martian atmosphere, one was on the Sky Crane rocket platform pointing down at the rover, and two on Perseverance pointed both upward and downward.
The released video contains footage from these cameras that's been edited together to relate the story of the final minutes of the descent. The video begins before the giant supersonic parachute was deployed at an altitude of seven miles (11 km). The view then switches to the downward camera as the heat shield is jettisoned, showing the high speed descent into Jezero Crater.
As the spacecraft approaches the surface, the video, for the first time, shows the thrusters on the Sky Crane firing and Perseverance being winched to the surface as the rocket blast kicks up clouds of sand and dust. This is presented in a montage view showing the surface, Perseverance as seen from Sky Crane and Sky Crane as seen from Perseverance. The final shot is of the Sky Crane releasing the rover using explosive bolts and then flying off to crash a safe distance from the landing site.
Along with the cameras, Perseverance also has a commercial microphone aboard. This failed to record anything during the descent, but was able to pick up the sound of the Martian winds and the rover's machinery after the landing.
Though the landing occurred on February 18, it took four days to release the video because the large image files took time to be transmitted to Earth for processing along with telemetry data that NASA engineers are using to test the rover's systems before it begins its mission to seek signs of life on Mars.
"We put the EDL [Entry, Descent, and Landing] camera system onto the spacecraft not only for the opportunity to gain a better understanding of our spacecraft’s performance during entry, descent, and landing, but also because we wanted to take the public along for the ride of a lifetime – landing on the surface of Mars," says Dave Gruel, lead engineer for Mars 2020 Perseverance’s EDL camera and microphone subsystem at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in Pasadena, California. "We know the public is fascinated with Mars exploration, so we added the EDL Cam microphone to the vehicle because we hoped it could enhance the experience, especially for visually-impaired space fans, and engage and inspire people around the world.”
The video below shows the descent of Perseverance.