Here's a Running List of the Most Spectacular Images from NASA's Mars Rover so Far
Perseverance landed in February 2021. Here are some the best images it has taken.
Perseverance is the latest rover to put wheels down on the red planet. NASA's Mars 2020 rover launched on July 30, 2020, despite massive obstacles, and landed on February 18, 2021. It almost instantly began illuminating Mars in ways we've never seen before.
The car-sized rover's mission is to hunt for signs of past microbial life on the planet's surface. It will also collect rock and soil samples to be returned to Earth as part of a future project. While the mission will last a long time, Perseverance has already returned stunning images and video of its time on Mars. The mission's cameras are the most advanced cameras NASA has yet put on the surface of the planet.
Here, we're rounding up the most spectacular photos from NASA's exciting mission to the red planet as they're released.
The First Image
After the rover landed, it returned the first image from its new "forever home." It's not as beautiful as other images that came after it, but it's a historic image in its own right for being the first glimpse of from the surface of the Jezero Crater, where Perseverance will execute its mission.
The Touchdown, Seen from Above
Before NASA shared a video of the landing, we got an image taken from the descent stage as it lowered Perseverance to the Martian surface on tethers. It's a beautiful image of the final moments before Perseverance made it to the surface.
Video of the Landing
Days after the landing, NASA released actual video of the rover's descent and touchdown, often referred to as its "seven minutes of terror." Yes, rovers have landed on the planet before, but every time it's done successfully is a reason for justified awe. This video gives an unprecedented view of the landing.
A Secret Message in the Parachute
NASA tucked Easter eggs along for the ride. One of the first to be revealed was a message hidden in the rover's parachute, seen in the video above. After NASA announced there was a code hidden in the parachute, it took about six hours for someone to crack the code, according to Adam Steltzner, the rover's chief engineer. Around the outside of the parachute, the code gives the GPS coordinates for the Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL). The inner part of the parachute says, "Dare mighty things."
Leaving Tracks on the Surface
After the rover's maiden test drive, NASA shared images of the ground behind the rover, over which it had just driven. You can see the tracks left behind the first time Perseverance cruised across the Martian surface.
Dust Devils on Mars
In mid-March, Perseverance shared a couple of GIFs when it spotted a dust devil storming across the Jezero Crater.
Ingenuity Touches Down
One of the exciting projects that came with Perseverance is Ingenuity, a five-pound helicopter stowed under the rover. On the helicopter's journey of 293 million miles, it took weeks for it to travel the final few inches down to the surface. After landing, Perseverance ran tests and system checks before finding a flat place it could deposit Ingenuity. On April 3, Ingenuity was set down to begin running its own system checks in anticipation of its first test flight scheduled for mid-April. Perseverance took a photo of the helicopter after it was placed on the Martian surface.
Selfie with Ingenuity
Once Perseverance was a safe distance from Ingenuity, it snapped a selfie using the WATSON (Wide Angle Topographic Sensor for Operations and eNgineering) camera at the end of its robotic arm. In the image, you can see the rover, as well as the helicopter in the background. You can also see the tracks left by Perseverance in the soil of the Jezero Crater.
The First Powered Flight on Another Planet
Perseverance saw it from a distance, but this little GIF is the first-ever powered flight on another planet. It's an amazing feat that could open up whole new realms of planetary exploration.
This is the first image Ingenuity took in-flight.
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Here are all the best stargazing events that you can get out and see this month or you could stay in a stream the northern lights from home. If you're just getting started, check out our guide to astronomy for beginners, the best meteor showers of 2021, or easy stargazing road trips from big US cities.