NASA releases Mars panorama taken by Perseverance rover

The panorama shows the rim of the Jezero Crater where the rover touched down last week and the cliff face of an ancient river delta in the distance.

Jezero Crater

The US space agency NASA released a spectacular panoramic view on Wednesday of the landing site of the Perseverance rover on Mars.

The panorama shows the rim of the Jezero Crater where the rover touched down last week and the cliff face of an ancient river delta in the distance.

It was taken by rotating the rover's mast 360 degrees. The mast is equipped with dual, zoomable cameras which can take high-definition video and images.

(Photograph:AFP)

Mars panorama

The panorama is composed of 142 individual images stitched together on Earth, NASA said.

"We're nestled right in a sweet spot, where you can see different features similar in many ways to features found by Spirit, Opportunity, and Curiosity at their landing sites," said Jim Bell of Arizona State University's School of Earth and Space Exploration.

Spirit, Opportunity and Curiosity were previous missions to Mars.

(Photograph:AFP)

Geologic history of Mars

NASA said the rover's cameras will help scientists assess the geologic history and atmospheric conditions of Jezero Crater and identify rocks and sediment worthy of a closer examination and collection for eventual return to Earth.

On Monday, the US space agency released the first audio from Mars, a faint crackling recording of a gust of wind captured by the rover's microphone.

NASA also released video of the landing of the rover, which is on a mission to search for signs of past life on the Red Planet.

(Photograph:AFP)

Home movies of Mars

Earlier, NASA scientists had unveiled first-of-a-kind home movies of daredevil Mars rover landing, vividly showing its supersonic parachute inflation over the red planet and a rocket-powered hovercraft lowering the science lab on wheels to the surface.

The footage was recorded by a series of cameras mounted at different angles of the multi-stage spacecraft as it carried the rover, named Perseverance, through the thin Martian atmosphere to a gentle touchdown inside a vast basin called Jezero Crater.

(Photograph:AFP)

Astrobiology probe

Thomas Zurbuchen, NASA associate administrator for science, called seeing the footage "the closest you can get to landing on Mars without putting on a pressure suit."

The video montage was played for reporters tuning in to a news briefing webcast from NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) near Los Angeles four days after the historic landing of the most advanced astrobiology probe ever sent to another world.

NASA also presented a brief audio clip captured by microphones on the rover after its arrival that included the murmur of a light wind gust - the first ever recorded on the fourth planet from the sun.

(Photograph:AFP)

Martian breeze

JPL imaging scientist Justin Maki said NASA's stationary landing craft InSight, which arrived on Mars in 2018 to study its deep interior, previously measured seismic signals on the planet that were "acoustically driven" and then "rendered as audio."

But mission deputy project manager Matt Wallace said he believed the Martian breeze represented the first ambient sound directly recorded on the surface of Mars and played back for humans.

The spacecraft's mics failed to collect useable audio during descent to the crater floor. But they did pick up a mechanical whirring from the rover after its arrival. Wallace said he hoped to record other sounds, such as the rover's wheels crunching over the surface and its robotic arm drilling for samples of Martian rock.

(Photograph:AFP)

Perseverance to collect 30 rock and soil samples

Shortly after landing, the rover sent back its first black-and-white images, revealing a rocky field at the landing site in the Jezero Crater, just north of the Red Planet's equator.

Perseverance's prime mission will last just over two years but it is likely to remain operational well beyond that, with its predecessor Curiosity still functioning eight years after landing on the planet, said NASA acting administrator Steve Jurczyk.

Over the coming years, Perseverance will attempt to collect 30 rock and soil samples in sealed tubes, to be eventually sent back to Earth sometime in the 2030s for lab analysis.

About the size of an SUV, the craft weighs a ton, is equipped with a seven foot- (two meter-) long robotic arm, has 19 cameras, two microphones and a suite of cutting-edge instruments to assist in its scientific goals.

"It'll be on Mars for its entire life," he said, adding "these robots tend to be really reliable."

(Photograph:AFP)

First samples in summer

Mars was warmer and wetter in its distant past, and while previous exploration has determined the planet was habitable, Perseverance is tasked with determining whether it was actually inhabited.

It will begin drilling its first samples in summer, and along the way it will deploy new instruments to scan for organic matter, map chemical composition and zap rocks with a laser to study the vapor.

Despite the rover's state-of-the-art technology, bringing samples back to Earth remains crucial because of anticipated ambiguities in the specimens it documents. 

For example, fossils that arose from ancient microbes may look suspiciously similar to patterns caused by precipitation.

(Photograph:AFP)

Read in App