NASA has released the first image its Perseverance rover sent back after touching down on Mars on February 18. This mission brings lots of new hardware and science to the Red Planet.
NASA’s Perseverance Mars has landed safely on the Red Planet and immediately sent back its first image(s) from its surface! The images are from the planet’s Jezero Crater, the ancient delta the rover will be exploring over the course of its mission.
Perseverance’s final approach to Mars a few hours ago was followed by a clearly tense but optimistic team, who confirmed it was on track to hit the bullseye of the crater.
Even though there were a few brief but expected communications blackouts caused by the superheated air around the craft as it entered the thin Martian atmosphere, the lander sent back a continuous stream of updates. When it finally landed, the team cheered but, in accordance with COVID-19 precautions did not (as they normally would) hug each other.
The image(s) come from Perseverance’s Hazard Avoidance Cameras (Hazcams), which help the rover with driving. Note that the protective covers over the lenses of these cameras are still on! These first images are low-resolution versions known as “thumbnails.” NASA will release higher-resolution versions later as the dust settles and the rover initiates its more powerful devices and cameras.
The focus of perseverance’s mission to Mars is astrobiology, including the search for signs of ancient microbial life. The rover will characterize the planet’s geology and past climate, paving the way for human exploration of Mars. It will be the first mission to collect and cache Martian rock and regolith.
NASA is currently considering, in cooperation with ESA (European Space Agency), sending follow-up spacecraft to Mars to collect the samples collected by Perseverance from the surface and return them to Earth for in-depth analysis.
For more information about the mission, visit NASA’s page on the mission.