- NASA’s new Mars rover, Perseverance, has already beamed back thousands of stunning photos.
- Sports cameras recorded the rover’s descent and landing.
- Now Perseverance’s science and navigation cameras are capturing an ancient Martian lake bed.
- Visit the Business section of Insider for more stories.
NASA’s Perseverance rover hasn’t started roaming the red planet just yet, but its cameras have been busy at work.
A suite of ruggedized, off-the-shelf sports cameras captured unprecedented footage of the rover descending to Mars and landing in Jezero Crater on Thursday. Then the rover’s science and navigation cameras began snapping away as soon as it was on the ground. The results are breathtaking.
So far, NASA has published more than 4,700 images from the rover, with many more to come.
“It’s been a firehose of data,” Justin Maki, a Perseverance imaging scientist and the chief of the instrument-operations team, said in a press conference on Monday.
The new photos reveal the sand dunes, rocks, and distant 200-foot-tall cliffs of the ancient lake bed where Perseverance now sits. It’s the most hazardous terrain any Mars landing has ever targeted, but it’s already paying off in unprecedented portraits of the red planet.
“I review images for Mars, like, every day. That’s what I do. And when I saw these images come down, I have to say, I was truly amazed,” Maki said. “I know it’s been a tough year for everybody, and we’re hoping that maybe these images will help brighten people’s day.”
These include the first-ever images of a rover landing on Mars. Five cameras captured more than 23,000 images during Perseverance’s descent.
NASA has also released a three-minute video of the rover’s descent and landing. Watch it and read more here.
The cameras started recording as the capsule carrying the rover deployed a 70-foot-wide parachute to slow its fall through the Martian atmosphere.
Hidden in the parachute’s pattern is binary computer code spelling out the message “Dare mighty things.”
When the bottom panel of the capsule fell away, that exposed a camera on the bottom of the rover, which captured Jezero Crater below.
In this ancient lake bed, Perseverance is set to hunt for signs of ancient alien microbes that could be fossilized there, especially along the river delta that once filled the crater with water.
All these images had to be color corrected. Here’s what they looked like before that.
During the landing, the capsule dropped the rover, and then a jetpack attached to Perseverance’s back fired its engines and flew to the landing site. There, it lowered the rover on 25-foot nylon cables.
As it approached, the jetpack’s engines kicked up swirling clouds of dust on the Martian surface.
Then the jetpack released the rover and flew away to crash-land at a safe distance.
Before the dust settled, the rover was already beaming back its first photos from the Martian surface.
The first images revealed some very holey rocks that got NASA scientists excited. The rocks could be volcanic, or water could have tunneled through them.
Over the weekend, NASA engineers instructed Perseverance to deploy its mast. That gave a much better view of both the landscape and the rover.
The rover’s Mastcam-Z camera, named for its powerful zoom lens, used a color wheel built into the rover to calibrate itself.
“We’re going to get incredibly high-resolution photos from this imaging system,” Maki said.
High on its mast, Perseverance’s Navcam camera can see everything. It will help the rover drive.
To the west of the rover, the Navcam can see the cliffs of the river delta on the horizon. That’s where the rover is headed.
The Perseverance team on Earth stitched six of those images together to create a 360-degree panorama.
NASA turned that panorama into a video that you can drag left and right to see the view from Perseverance’s perspective.