Nasa promises Perseverance Mars rover landing video




  • In Science
  • 2021-02-22 16:11:19Z
  • By BBC

The American space agency is expected to release some stunning video of its Perseverance rover landing on Mars.

Friday saw Nasa present a single still image of the robot going in to land in Jezero Crater last week.

But this was just one frame from tens of thousands that Perseverance was expected to acquire during its hair-raising descent to the surface.

Perseverance was sent to Mars festooned with cameras, seven of which were dedicated to recording the landing.

Their imagery represents vital feedback for engineers as they look to improve still further the technologies used to put probes on the surface of the Red planet.

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Landing graphic
Landing graphic  

Controllers at the agency's Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in California spent the weekend pulling down images from the robot. A press conference has been called for 11:00 PST (19:00 GMT) where they've promised to highlight some of this material.

Other tasks at the weekend should have seen Perseverance's navigation mast, which had been stowed flat since leaving Earth last year, raised into the vertical.

This would have allowed the main science cameras at the mast's top, the Mastcam-Z system, to begin building a panorama of the surrounding terrain in Jezero and of the deck of the rover itself. The latter mosaic is wanted to look for any damage that might have been inflicted by flying stones at the time of landing.

Perseverance
Perseverance  

Controllers will this week perform the critical function of transitioning Perseverance away from the software that got it safely down to the surface of Mars to one that enables the robot to rove and use equipment such as its robotic arm.

This is likely to take fully four Martian days, or Sols (a Martian day lasts 24 hours and 39 minutes). If the work goes off without a hitch, we could witness the first test drive of a few metres come the weekend.

There's huge interest in the mini-helicopter that travelled with the rover. The 2kg device will perform the first powered flight on another world.

But first Perseverance needs to find the right place to put this aircraft down to conduct its experiments. Mission planners said on Friday it would be a few weeks yet before the robot reached this chosen location, meaning it's probably going to be April before Ingenuity, as the little chopper is known, takes to the skies.

Perseverance's landing spot is in a 1.2km by 1.2km quadrangle that the science team has informally called Canyon de Chelly after the National Monument in the US State of Arizona.

The robot is sitting on a flat piece of ground at the boundary of two geologic units - a smooth unit under the wheels of the vehicle that contains what are likely to be dark volcanic rocks; and a rougher unit that has rocks with a lot of the mineral olivine in them.

About 2km to the northwest is what looks from satellite images to be the remains of a delta that formed when Jezero was filled by a giant lake billions of years ago.

Deltas are created when rivers enter a wider body of water and dump silt and sand. It's in these sediments that Perseverance will look for signs of past microbial activity.

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