NASA on Monday released a trove of video footage showing its Perseverance rover landing on Mars after plunging through the planet’s atmosphere, unveiling the most in-depth views of a Mars landing ever.
Mission teams at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in California got back 30 gigabytes of data and over 23,000 images of the vehicle descending down to the surface. The videos were among 4,500 images NASA planned to release on Monday.
Perseverance entered Mars’ atmosphere last week bundled with a protective shell and a descent stage called the “Skycrane,” which fired rocket thrusters to slow its descent near the surface. The bundle sported four cameras to capture the landing sequence: one fixed on its protective backshell facing upward, one on the descent stage, and two on each side of the rover. Together, they captured some incredible views of the spacecraft’s descent.
“I can watch these videos for hours, and keep seeing new stuff every time,” Allen Chen, the mission’s entry, landing, and descent lead, said during a press conference.
Imaging company FLIR provided the four cameras, and NASA made little to no modifications to them. “You can purchase the same camera off the internet,” Dave Gruel, lead engineer for Mars 2020’s EDL Camera system, said at the press conference.
A microphone on board Perseverance also captured sounds once the rover was on the surface. It recorded noise from the rover itself and the soft sound of wind on Mars in the background.
The data started coming through NASA’s Deep Space Network last Thursday and Friday as the team pored over data on the spacecraft’s health.
The Perseverance team is looking forward to analyzing this data and much more as the rover settles at its landing site of Jezero Crater, a former lake some 3.5 billion years ago that could contain evidence of past life.