We had a front-row seat for the moment that astronauts Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley docked the SpaceX Crew Dragon to the International Space Station.
Technology has advanced to the point where we can see everything clearly – the rocket boosters doing their thing, to inside the spacecraft – every step of the way from liftoff to destination, provided that destination is relatively close to Earth.
Until now, this hasn’t been possible on Mars missions.
Perseverance touched down on the Red Planet last week, on one of the most complicated and dangerous landing sites to date, a former lake called Jezero.
For the first time, NASA has managed to capture video of a Mars landing, which they shared yesterday, alongside a sound clip, and a 360-degree view of her landing site.
What you’re seeing isn’t an animation or a simulation. This is real footage of Perseverance making her descent to and then landing on Mars:
Here’s a close-up of the final stage of her descent:
Perseverance has also sent back audio from Mars – turn the sound up:
This clip filters out Perseverance’s noise so that you can hear that Martian wind more clearly (turn the sound up to the max):
Finally, our first proper look at Jezero:
The Guardian spoke to a few members of the team that made this happen.
“These videos and these images are the stuff of our dreams,” said Al Chen, who was in charge of the landing team.
Dr Thomas Zurbuchen, NASA’s associate administrator for the science mission directorate, said:
“The video, I believe, should become mandatory viewing for young people who don’t only want to explore outer worlds, and build spacecraft to take them there, but also want to be part of diverse teams achieving all the audacious goals of our future.”
Overall, the team says that they’ve received a little over 30 gigabytes of information, and over 23 000 images of the vehicle’s descent.
“I know it’s been a tough year for everybody and we’re hoping that maybe these images will … help brighten people’s day,” said Justin Maki, the imaging scientist for Mars 2020.
“We are a long way from understanding that landscape, but we are there … the mission begins right here,” said Susanne Schwenzer, an astrobiologist at the Open University. “I for the first time can imagine what landing on Mars is like.”
Perseverance is kitted out with some of the most advanced equipment ever sent to Mars, which means that we can probably look forward to more groundbreaking visuals in the future.
It definitely brightened my day.
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