Last week, NASA’s Perseverance rover safely landed on Mars. In the days since, the science team has been checking the rover’s systems to make sure it is working and ready to explore, and they’ve also received Perseverance’s first images of the Martian surface. Even cooler, they recently released the first sounds (ever!) from Mars and the first video of a spacecraft landing on the red planet.
Unlike earlier Mars missions (Sojourner, Spirit and Opportunity), which landed on giant airbags, Perseverance and its predecessor Curiosity landed using a “sky crane” system, where a rocket-powered crane gently lowers the rover down to the surface. The Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO) also captured a bird’s eye view of the landing, plus where all the various descent stages (heat shield, parachute/back shell, and sky crane) ended up across the surface.
Perseverance and its landing gear were uniquely equipped with a microphone and six cameras to capture the various angles of the entry, descent, and landing process. In the incredible video of Perseverance’s landing, you can see the parachute launched by a small explosive, the first step in slowing down the spacecraft. This parachute had a hidden easter egg from the engineering team, too—its color pattern reveals the JPL motto, “Dare Mighty Things.” After the parachute deployed, the spacecraft gently rocked back and forth until the back shell separated and the sky crane's engines kicked in, steering the rover toward its landing spot.
The rover approached the surface, obscured by dust kicked up from the sky crane’s rockets. Once it touched down, the last frames of the video reveal the sky crane cutting the wires attaching it to the rover, then flying away to land elsewhere on Mars, safely away from the rover. Post-landing, Perseverance’s microphone captured the sound of a gusty wind accompanied by the constant buzz of the rover itself.
So, what comes next for Perseverance? The mission team will continue checking out the hardware to make sure all systems are working properly, and will soon take the rover for its first drive on the Martian surface. It landed near a variety of different geologic features scientists are eager to explore, including an ancient river delta already spotted in Mastcam-Z’s incredible panorama. (Note: The “Z” is for zoom, so we can certainly expect more stunning photos.) There’s so much exciting science to come as Perseverance explores Mars looking for signs of life!