NASA released a stunning photo of yesterday’s historic landing, showing the Perseverance rover being lowered to the surface during the skycrane manoeuvre.
Viewing the rover from that perspective “is not something that we’ve ever seen before,” said Aaron Stehura, the deputy phase lead for entry, descent, and landing, at a NASA press conference today, adding that his team was “awestruck” by the image. The hi-res photo was captured by a camera aboard the descent stage.
Adam Steltzner, Perseverance chief engineer, said the rover was about 23 feet (7 meters) above the surface when the image was taken. Incredibly, wisps of dust can be seen rising from the surface, the result of retro-rockets firing during the final stages of the descent. Steltzner described the sight as “exhilarating.”
NASA also released a photo taken by the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter, showing the vehicle descending to the surface with the supersonic parachute unfurled. The white circle in the image shows the eventual landing spot in Jezero crater.
The rover will spend the next two years looking for traces of microscopic life, among other scientific and engineering tasks.