NASA Releases Multi-Camera Videos Of Perseverance Landing 

This panorama, taken on Feb. 20, 2021, by the Navigation Cameras, or Navcams, aboard NASA’s Perseverance Mars rover, was stitched together from six individual images after they were sent back to Earth.
Credit: NASA

CAPE CANAVERAL—NASA has released about 4,500 images and video taken by its new Mars rover Perseverance and descent stage, including unprecedented views of parachute deployment, heat shield jettison, rocket jetpack ride, touchdown in Jezero Crater and even the flyaway of the descent stage.

“This is the first time we’ve been able to actually capture an event like the landing of a spacecraft of Mars,” JPL Director Michael Watkins said at a Feb. 22 news conference.

The landing video begins about 230 sec. after the spacecraft entered the upper atmosphere of Mars on Feb. 18. The video opens in black, with an upward-facing camera in the descent stage still covered within the parachute compartment. Perseverance is traveling at about 1,000 mph approximately 7 mi. above the planet’s surface. 

Additional cameras—all lightly modified commercial off-the-shelf hardware—were located in the descent stage looking down at the rover,  on top of the rover’s protective aeroshell looking up at the descent stage and on the bottom of the rover looking at the Martian surface.

Attempts to record audio of Perseverance’s Feb. 18 entry, descent and landing (EDL) on Jezero Crater were unsuccessful, most likely due to communications issues. But over the weekend a second microphone on the rover’s now-deployed mast captured sounds from the surface of Mars. The 60-sec. audio clip includes sounds of the rover whirling and a gentle gust of Martian wind, later clocked at about 11 mph. 

“It’s really overwhelming,” said Dave Gruel, lead engineer for the Perseverance’s EDL camera and microphone subsystem at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California. 

NASA also released the first panorama of the rover’s landing location, taken by the two Navigation Cameras located on its mast.

Scientists have been poring over the early images to begin assessing the landing site and looking for a suitable location for a series of flight tests of a small helicopter that accompanied Perseverance to Mars as part of a technology demonstration. 

During its primary, two-year mission, Perseverance is to scout for habitable environments and cache 20-30 samples that may contain microfossils or other evidence of past life. The samples will be retrieved by a second rover, slated to launch in 2026 or 2028, and returned to Earth as early as 2031. 

Irene Klotz

Irene Klotz is Space Editor for Aviation Week, based in Cape Canaveral. Before joining Aviation Week in 2017, Irene spent 25 years as a wire service reporter covering human and robotic spaceflight, commercial space, astronomy, science and technology for Reuters and United Press International.