Wow, what a view.
NASA’s Perseverance rover, which landed on the surface of Mars last Thursday (Feb. 18), just beamed down its first panoramic image of the Martian surface, the agency reported today (Feb. 22).
The car-sized rover snapped the panorama on Feb. 20, 2021, just two days after landing in Jezero Crater, an ancient lake on the Red Planet’s surface, using its onboard Navigation Cameras (or Navcams). The panorama was created here on Earth with six individual images taken by the interplanetary robot’s cameras.
Perseverance, or “Percy,” as some call the craft, landed last Thursday afternoon; mission control at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California received the signal at 3:55 p.m. EST (2055 GMT) confirming that the rover had successfully touched down on the Martian surface as part of the agency’s Mars 2020 mission. (The confirmation arrived about 11 minutes after Perseverance actually landed because that’s how long it took the radio signal to travel from Mars to Earth.)
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Today, the agency released the first video from the rover, taken both by cameras on the rover itself and by cameras on the Skycrane and parachute systems which helped to get the craft safely to the planet’s surface.
In addition to the stunning video, NASA also released a “firehose of data,” Justin Maki, a Perseverance imaging scientist and instrument operations team chief, said today during a news conference. Among that data is a slew of incredible images from the rover’s first days on Mars, including this panorama.
Perseverance will continue to take photos and videos on Mars, and the rover will also record, for the first time ever, audio using a microphone on the surface of Mars. The rover, which is slated to last at least two years on the Red Planet (though previous rovers have far outlived their expected end dates), is taking detailed and plentiful images for a number of reasons.
With detailed images of the Martian surface, scientists back on Earth can explore what types of rocks and material are actually in Jezero Crater. They can also use these images to support one of the mission’s primary science objectives: to find evidence of ancient life on Mars.
Scientists think Jezero Crater was once a massive lake and delta system, roughly 3.5 billion years ago. Because of this, and because life as we know it on Earth depends on the presence of things like water, they estimate that if life did exist on Mars at that time it likely lived in this ancient crater. This means that, in the panorama image taken by Perseverance, you are looking at an ancient lake bed where Martian life could once have thrived.
Email Chelsea Gohd at [email protected] or follow her on Twitter @chelsea_gohd. Follow us on Twitter @Spacedotcom and on Facebook.