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NASA's Persistence rover sends a glimpse of the descent to the Martian soil and the landing environment

After Thursday's successful landing, engineers began testing the condition of NASA's Mars Persistence Vehicle. Among other things, they published preliminary images from the vehicle's cameras, as well as from the camera of the crane that lowered it to the ground and even from space

This high-resolution image shows one of the six wheels of NASA's Mars Preserver (Persistence) rover, which landed on February 18, 2021. The image was taken by one of Persistence's color hazard detection cameras (Hazcams).
This high-resolution image shows one of the six wheels of NASA's Mars Preserver (Persistence) rover, which landed on February 18, 2021. The image was taken by one of Persistence's color hazard detection cameras (Hazcams).

Less than a day after Preserver's successful landing on the surface of Mars, engineers and scientists at the agency's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Southern California began the hard work of assessing the spacecraft's condition.

 As the data trickled in, relayed by several spacecraft orbiting Mars, the persistence team was relieved to receive the rover's health reports, which showed it was performing as expected.

The excitement grew when a high-resolution image that was taken during the rover's landing arrived. While previous landers such as Curiosity transmitted video intermittently as they approached landing, Preserver's cameras were designed to capture video of the touchdown and this new still image was taken from that video, which is still being beamed back to Earth and processed.

Unlike past rovers, most of the Persistence's cameras will transmit color images. (The reduced images were sent immediately after the landing in black and white to get them quickly to Earth, but they were actually taken in color). After landing, two of the hazard cameras (Hazcams) photographed views from the front and back of the rover, showing one of its wheels in the Martian dirt. Persistence also got a close-up from NASA's eye in the sky: NASA's Mars Rover (MRO) used a special high-resolution camera to capture the rover descending into Jizero Crater, its parachutes trailing behind. The High Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer Experiment (HiRISE) did the same for Curiosity in 2012.

This high-resolution still image is part of a video captured by several cameras as NASA's Persistence rover touched down on the Martian soil on February 18, 2021. A camera aboard the descent stage (the Martian crane) captured the rover's shot from it shortly before touchdown. Credits: NASA / JPL-Caltech
This high-resolution still image is part of a video captured by several cameras as NASA's Persistence rover touched down on the Martian soil on February 18, 2021. A camera aboard the descent stage (the Martian crane) captured the rover's shot from it shortly before touchdown. Credits: NASA / JPL-Caltech

On Friday, the engineers in the control room activated small charges whose explosion was intended to release the mast of the persistence ("head of the rover") from its place inside the vehicle. The navigation cameras (Navcams), which are used for driving, share space on the mast with two scientific cameras: the Mastcam-Z and a laser device called supercam . The mast is supposed to be raised today, Saturday, February 20, after which the navigation cameras are expected to take panoramic pictures of the rover's deck and its surroundings.

In the following days, the engineers will go over the rover's system data, update its software and begin testing its various devices. In the following weeks, Temada will test the robotic arm and begin an initial, short drive. It will be at least a month or two before Persistence finds a flat spot to land Ingenuity, the helicopter glider attached to the rover's belly, and a long time before it finally takes off into the thin air, begins its scientific mission and searches for its first rock and sediment sample.


The MRO spacecraft captured the Preserver during its descent into the Martian atmosphere. Credits: NASA / JPL-Caltech The MRO spacecraft captured Preserver during its descent into the Martian atmosphere. Credits: NASA / JPL-Caltech NASA also managed to photograph the landing from an unusual angle - from space. In the photo you can see the descent stage and a rover inside The Perservirens is falling through the Martian atmosphere, with its parachute trailing behind, in this photo taken on February 18, 2021, by the High Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (HiRISE) camera aboard the Mars Rover (MRO) the ancient river delta, which is the mission's target, Crater C Yazoro on the left. MRO's orbit was about 700 km from Perzerbirens and moving at a speed of 3 km per second when the photo was taken. The extreme distance and high speeds of the two spacecraft were challenging conditions that required precise timing and for MRO to be pointed upwards and roll hard to the left so that it could Seeing Preservation by HiRISE at just the right moment
The MRO spacecraft captured the Preserver during its descent into the Martian atmosphere. Credits: NASA / JPL-Caltech The MRO spacecraft captured Preserver's during its descent into the Martian atmosphere. Credits: NASA / JPL-Caltech NASA also managed to photograph the landing from an unusual angle - from space. The photo shows the descent stage as the Preservation rover falls through the Martian atmosphere, with its parachute trailing behind, in this photo taken on February 18, 2021, by the High Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (HiRISE) camera aboard the Mars Rover (MRO) and the ancient river delta can be seen , which is the objective of the mission, Jizero Crater on the left. The MRO orbiter was about 700 km from Perzerbirens and moving at a speed of 3 km per second when the photo was taken. The extreme distance and high speeds of the two spacecraft were challenging conditions that required precise timing and for MRO to be pointed up and rolled hard to the left so that Preserver's could be seen by HiRISE at just the right moment
This is the first high-resolution color image captured by the hazard cameras (Hazcams) on the underside of NASA's Mars Rover after landing on February 18, 2021. Credits: NASA / JPL-Caltech
This is the first high-resolution color image captured by the hazard cameras (Hazcams) on the underside of NASA's Mars Rover after landing on February 18, 2021. Credits: NASA / JPL-Caltech

The main goal of a Mars persistence mission is Astrobiology , including searching for signs of ancient microbial life. The rover will characterize the geology of Mars and its past climate, pave the way for human exploration of the Red Planet, and will be the first mission to collect and cache samples of Martian rock and dust made of rock fragments (regular), when spacecraft in a joint mission of NASA and the European Space Agency will land the samples and return them to Earth.

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