By Steve Gorman
Los Angeles – NASA scientists unveiled last week’s first-of-its-kind home movies of last week’s’ daring Mars rover landing, vividly demonstrating supersonic parachute inflation on the red planet and a rocket-powered hovercraft that landed the science lab on wheels. surface.
The footage was captured Thursday by a series of cameras mounted at different angles of the multi-stage spacecraft as it took Perseverance a light touch from the thin Martian atmosphere to a vast basin called Jezero Crater.
Thomas Zurbuchen, NASA’s deputy director of science, described the image as “closest to landing on Mars without wearing a print suit”.
The video montage was played for reporters watching 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 short audio clip recorded by microphones upon arrival on the reconnaissance vehicle, including the murmur of a gentle breeze, the first thing recorded from the sun on the fourth planet.
JPL imaging scientist Justin Maki said that NASA’s stationary landing vehicle InSight, which arrived on Mars in 2018 to probe deep inside, had previously measured seismic signals on the planet that were “actuated acoustically” and then “processed as sound.”
But mission project assistant Matt Wallace said he believes the Martian breeze represents the first ambient sound recorded directly on the Martian surface and played for humans.
The spacecraft’s microphones were unable to collect usable sound during landing on the crater floor. However, after the vehicle arrival, they received a mechanical hum from the vehicle. Wallace said the explorer hoped to record other sounds, such as the wheels cracking on the surface and drilling the robotic arm for Martian rock samples.
‘THE THING OF OUR DREAMS’
However, what JPL’s team found particularly striking was the film footage of the spacecraft’s dangerous self-guided voyage over Mars – a range-to-landing point what NASA calls “seven minutes of terror.”
“These videos and these images are our dreams,” Al Chen, head of the landing and landing team, told reporters. JPL Director Mike Watkins said the engineers spent most of the weekend “repeatedly watching” the footage.
Wallace said that the video, shot in color at 75 frames per second, shows fluid and vibrant movements from various angles.
One of the most dramatic moments was when the spacecraft launched toward the ground at almost twice the speed of sound, a red-and-white parachute launched from a canon-like launch device into the sky above the traveler.
Chen said that the shot spreads upward, opens and inflates completely in less than two seconds, with no evidence of interference within the 2 miles (3.2 km) of rope lines.
A downward-facing camera shows a wide view of Mars’ buttery-colored terrain as the heat shield has fallen and slides back and forth as the spacecraft is swinging under the parachute.
Seconds later, an upward-facing camera captures the rocket-powered “sky crane” vehicle that has just been launched from the parachute, its propellants ignite, but lowering the traveler to a safe landing point on the seatbelt while the propellant emits invisible fumes to the human eye. your ropes.
A separate camera shows the six-wheeled rover descending from the viewpoint of the sky crane while Perseverance looks downward as it hangs from the harness just above the surface, with dust streams rippling around it during touchdown. The sky crane is then seen flying up and away from the landing site after the harness cables have been cut.
A single photograph of the rover hanging from the sky crane just before landing was released by NASA on Friday as a precursor to the video shown on Monday.
The only previous motion picture produced by a spacecraft during a Mars landing was a relatively rough video shot from beneath the previous rover Curiosity as it landed on the planet’s surface in 2012. The stop-motion-like sequence was shot at 3.5 frames per head. second, from a single angle showing the ground approaching, but without images of parachute or sky crane maneuvers.