NASA’s Perseverance rover has been on Mars for a full week, and the images are starting to pour in. Here are our favourites so far.
The six-wheeled rover landed in Jezero crater on Feb. 18, and the Mars 2020 team is busily preparing Perseverance for the science stage of the mission. But that hasn’t stopped the rover from snapping some seriously interesting pics, which NASA is making available. As of this posting, the space agency has uploaded more than 5,600 raw images to the publicly available archive, so yeah, the SUV-sized rover has been very active, at least in the photography department.
While drifting towards the surface of Mars, the spacecraft’s Parachute Up-Look Camera A snapped this really neat photo, showing the parachute from a rather unique perspective. Only later was it revealed that a code was hiding in the red and white patterns. Internet sleuths managed to crack it, finding that it reads “dare mighty things,” which happens to be the motto at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory. The GPS coordinates for JPL in Pasadena, California, are also hidden in the patterns on the parachute’s outer ring.
It looks like the internet has cracked the code in something like 6 hours! Oh internet is there anything you can’t do? For those who just want to know: #Mars2020 #CountdownToMars pic.twitter.com/yTJCEnbuLY
— Adam Steltzner (@steltzner) February 23, 2021
Goodbye, heat shield
The spacecraft ejected its heat shield when the rover was approximately 4 miles (6.4 kilometers) above the surface. According to Al Chen, Perseverance EDL lead at JPL, a spring responsible for pushing the heat shield away appears to have come loose. This didn’t affect the mission, but it obviously was not supposed to happen.
A bird’s eye view of Jezero crater
This is one of many images taken by the rover’s Down-Look Camera during the descent. Intriguing geological features are visible, including some interesting stratigraphy at top left. Billions of years ago, Jezero crater was filled with water and fed by a rushing river.
Here’s a closer view of that area, showing a large crater and dune-like patterning on the surface. NASA has chosen an excellent place to land, as Jezero crater appears to be a geologically busy place.
You’re probably familiar with this photo by now, but if you’re like me, you’ll never tire of seeing it. It shows Perseverance during the “skycrane” landing manoeuvre, as the rover is being lowered to the surface by its rocket-powered backshell.
An alien landscape
Wow. Thanks to Percy, we know what it’s like to stand on an alien world and gaze off into the horizon. This image was taken by the Mastcam-Z camera located on the rover’s mast. In total, the rover is equipped with 23 different cameras.
Postcards from the Red Planet
Another spectacular view from inside Jezero crater, again taken with Mastcam-Z. Many rocks are strewn about, which Perseverance will have to avoid while trekking across the surface. That said, the machine is so beautifully designed that it can endure tilts of 45 degrees without falling over.
A panoramic view
Behold the first 360-degree panoramic view of the rover’s landing site. The photo was captured on Feb. 21, and it was stitched together from 142 individual images.
A close-up view of some rocks near the rover. The quality of these photos are exceptional. Perseverance is designed such that it could easily roll over these obstructions, as its legs will “enable the rover to drive over knee-high rocks as tall as 40 centimetres,” according to NASA.
The rover’s Mastcam-Z camera was used to snap this image of the rover’s deck, which has already accumulated some dust (likely during the landing). That joystick-like device in the foreground is used to calibrate Mastcam-Z.
Mysterious rocks with holes
This wonderful Mastcam-Z image, in addition to showing us a clear view of the rover’s front left wheel, shows rocks peppered with holes. Geologist Kathryn Stack Morgan, deputy project scientist for the Mars 2020 mission, said similar holes are seen in volcanic rocks, but also sedimentary rocks. The team is keen to find out, as the result will be interesting regardless.
Yep, definitely holes
Another view of those pockmarked rocks. Once the mission gets rolling, the rover’s SuperCam will be used to “identify the chemical composition of rocks and soils, including their atomic and molecular makeup,” according to NASA.
Easter eggs on Mars
The hidden code in the parachute wasn’t the only Mars 2020 Easter egg. A family portrait of all five wheeled rovers sent to Mars has been spotted on Percy’s deck. From left to right they are: Sojourner, Spirit, Opportunity, Curiosity, and Perseverance. And check out the tiny helicopter at far right — that’s Ingenuity, which is currently strapped to the belly of the rover.
What lies beneath
Here’s the view from directly beneath the rover, which Perseverance captured with its Down-Look camera.
The Sun from Mars
Percy used its Left Navigation Camera to snap this neat photo of the Sun. A day on Mars is referred to as a sol, which lasts for 24 hours and 39 minutes and 35 seconds.