Nasa has released the first video of its car-sized robotic rover titled Perseverance, which astonishedly landed on Mars and released the first recorded sound on the surface of the red planet.
The US space agency shared the footage on Monday, days after the spacecraft landed on the surface of Mars.
The robotic vehicle sailed through space for nearly seven months, covering 293m miles (472m km) before piercing the Martian atmosphere at 12,000mph (19,000km/h) to begin its approach to touchdown on Mars, with the help of a parachute, booster rockets and a sky crane.
Perseverance – known intimately as Percy – weighing more than a ton, landed close in the middle of the landing zone inside the 28-mile (45-kilometre) Jezero crater north of the planet’s equator, where billions of years ago It is believed to have once contained the lake bed of Mars.
Nasa scientists also shared – for the very first time – the sounds of Mars, a feat never achieved before on another world.
“The amazing panorama and the first … landscape shot of the Jezero crater seen with human eyes and the first Martian sounds are the closest you can get to landing on Mars without putting on a pressure suit,” said Dr. Thomas Zurbuchen, Nasa’s associate administrator for the science mission directorate.
“The video, I believe, should become mandatory viewing for young people who don’t only want to explore outer worlds, and build spacecraft to take them there, but also want to be part of diverse teams achieving all the audacious goals of our future.”
The $2.7bn rover – whose primary aim is to search for ancient signs of life – also produced some spectacular panoramic imagery courtesy of its 20-megapixel colour cameras detailing the peaks and troughs of Mars’ dimpled surface.
One striking picture showed a smattering of dark, light and hole-ridden rocks. “We use these very generic terms at this early stage until we have more data that allow us to test our hypotheses and make more confident interpretations,” said Ken Williford, deputy project scientist for the mission.
Overall, the team said they had received a little over 30 gigabytes of information, and over 23,000 images of the vehicle’s descent.
“I know it’s been a tough year for everybody and we’re hoping that maybe these images will … help brighten people’s day,” said Justin Maki, the imaging scientist for Mars 2020.
Past missions on Mars including Curiosity and Opportunity have suggested that Mars was – billions of years ago – a humid planet with a life-supportive environment. Biologists hope this latest mission could provide some evidence to prove whether life existed – or did – outside Earth.
In addition to the upgraded autopilot system, Perseverance carries a range of sophisticated instruments designed to analyze rocks for biological structures or chemical markers of life. It will also store samples from the planet’s surface; Future missions backed by Europe and America are expected to take these specimens and return them to Earth.
For critics of space exploration – people who say we should focus on addressing the plethora of problems Earth is battling – Nasa scientists had a clear message: Earth is a priority, but exploration is what drives humanity forward.
This is the largest flight to Mars in the history of space. The chance to fly between Earth and Mars appears only once every 26 months when the planets are on the same side of the sun and are as close as possible.
Canada has joined hands with a group of scientists who helped select and decide on specific sites to sample after landing.
Featured Image Photo Credit: (NASA/Bill Ingalls)
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