NASA on Monday unveiled high-definition video images of the final minutes of its rover touchdown on Mars last week, showing the explosive opening of a parachute and the landing rockets’ plume stirring up red dust.
Along with 3 minutes of footage of what it calls “the world’s most intimate view of a Mars landing,” the US space agency also released an audio recording of sounds from the red planet, including what it said was a wind gust on the surface of Mars.
The footage, other images and audio recordings are “the closest you can get to landing on Mars without putting on a pressure suit,” Thomas Zurbuchen, NASA associate administrator for science, said at an online press conference.
A spacecraft carrying the Perseverance rover, about the size of a small car, was launched on July 30 last year for a mission to look for signs of ancient life on the planet and collect rock samples to be returned to Earth by a future NASA mission.
The landing took place on Thursday, with five commercial off-the-shelf cameras located on three different spacecraft components collecting the imagery. There was another camera, but it stopped operating, according to the National Aeronautics and Space Administration.
The imagery showed the parachute, about 22 meters in diameter, inflating after the spacecraft’s entry to the Martian atmosphere, as well as dust and small rocks kicking up as the rover descended to the surface with the help of its rocket-powered jet pack.
NASA also showed the Mars mission’s first panorama of the rover’s landing location on the Jezero Crater, which scientists believe was home to a lake about 3.5 billion years ago as well as to an ancient river delta.
“These scenes look familiar to us. They look Earth-like in a sense. You know, you see the mountains back there, and the rocks and things. It really is the surface of an alien world and we just arrived,” Justin Maki, an imaging scientist at NASA, said at the same press conference.
Mars, now a desert planet, is believed to have been more similar to Earth billions of years ago, with water on its surface, warmer temperatures and a thicker atmosphere.