NASA will today reveal footage of its Perseverance Mars rover touching down on the Red Planet.
The $2.4billion robot landed last week after enduring “seven minutes of terror” as it plunged through the Martian atmosphere.
Birds-eye view of Nasa’s Perseverance rover as its lowered to the surface of Mars by a spacecraft that assisted with the landingCredit: Nasa
The six-wheeled rover is Nasa’s most complex mission to the planet’s dusty surface yet, sporting 19 cameras and seven scientific instruments.
Over the next two years, it will scan Martian rock for signs of alien life and carry out tests that are key to future manned missions to the planet.
At 7pm GMT (2pm ET) on Monday, Nasa will reveal what is the first rover landing footage ever captured on another world.
The video was recorded from the rover itself as it was lowered to the surface of Mars by a spacecraft that assisted with the landing.
The Perseverance rover touched down on Mars last week (artist impression)
You can watch the unveiling for free on Nasa’s YouTube channel.
“Now that @NASAPersevere landed, we’ll release first-of-its-kind footage from the rover’s descent and landing after entering Mars’ atmosphere,” Nasa officials wrote in a Twitter update on Saturday.
The footage will show the robot dangling on nylon cables as it was delicately lowered into the Jezero crater last week.
Nasa shared a sneak peak of the clip last week when they released a photo Perseverance suspended above Mars from its rocket-powered skycrane.
Perseverance beamed back this image of the Martian surface shortly after landing
It was filmed at the end of Perseverance’s seven-minute landing, during which it hit speeds of 12,000mph.
“The moment that my team dreamed of for years, now a reality. Dare mighty things,” Nasa wrote in a post to the Perseverance Twitter account.
“This shot from a camera on my ‘jetpack’ captures me in midair, just before my wheels touched down.”
Perseverance is now sending data back to Earth via the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter spacecraft.
The main camera – the most powerful ever landed on Mars – will snap photos and video of the Red Planet’s surface
It takes photos, videos and other information roughly 11 minutes to travel through space to Nasa’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in California.
The nuclear battery-powered rover has landed at the edge of an ancient, long-vanished river delta and lake bed called the Jezero crater.
It’s thought that the basin was once filled with water and may have been home to alien microbes billions of years ago.
If that’s the case, traces of those microbes should still be present deep within the soil at Jezero – a bit like how dinosaur bones remain in Earth’s soil today.
The primary objective of Perseverance’s two-year mission – dubbed Mars 2020 – is to dig up soil samples that could contain all the proof we need that life grows on other planets.
In an interview ahead of the landing last week, Nasa Chief Scientist James Green laid out his hopes for the project.
“We want to search the past from the rock record to see if Mars could have supported life,” he said on Neil DeGrasse Tyson’s podcast, StarTalk.
“My secret wish is that we find it. We don’t anticipate getting fossils, but there are potential cells or microbial indications that life could have survived on Mars in its early history.”
The Ingenuity helicopter will perform the first powered flight on Mars
Perseverance – What’s on board?
Perseverance boasts a total of 19 cameras and two microphones, and carries seven scientific instruments.
- Planetary Instrument for X-Ray Lithochemistry (PIXL)
An X-ray “ray gun” that will help scientists investigate the composition of Martian rock.
2. Radar Imager for Mars’ subsurface experiment (RIMFAX)
A ground-penetrating radar that will image buried rocks, meteorites, and even possible underground water sources up to a depth of 10 metres (33ft).
3. Mars Environmental Dynamics Analyzer (MEDA)
A bunch of sensors that will take readings of temperature, wind speed and direction, pressure, and other atmospheric conditions.
4. Mars Oxygen ISRU Experiment (MOXIE)
An experiment that will convert Martian carbon dioxide into oxygen. A scaled-up version could be used in future to provide Martian colonists with breathable air.
A suite of instruments for measuring the makeup of rocks and regolith at a distance
A camera system capable of taking “3D” images by combining two or more photos into one.
7. Scanning Habitable Environments with Raman and Luminescence for Organics and Chemicals (SHERLOC)
From Baker Street to Mars: Sherloc contains an ultraviolet laser that will investigate Martian rock for organic compounds.
Advanced power tools will drill samples from Martian rock and seal them into dozens of cigar-sized tubes for eventual return to Earth for further analysis.
Provided all goes to plan, they will be the first such specimens ever collected by humankind from the surface of another planet.
Two future missions to retrieve those samples and fly them back to Earth are in the planning stages by Nasa, in collaboration with the European Space Agency.
Another of the Mars mission’s headline experiments involves a small, drone helicopter named Ingenuity.
Strapped to the bottom of Perseverance, the lightweight craft will attempt the first ever powered flight on Mars in the coming months.
If successful, the four-pound (1.8-kg) whirlybird could pave the way for low-altitude aerial surveillance of Mars during later missions.
Other key equipment on board the $2.2billion rover include two microphones that will capture the first audio recordings from the Martian surface, as well as a potentially groundbreaking experiment called Moxie.
Moxie (Mars Oxygen ISRU Experiment) is a small contraption housed in the belly of the rover that will convert a small amount of atmospheric carbon dioxide into oxygen.
It’s a 1/200 scale test model of a design that may be used on Mars to provide future colonists with breathable air.
In other news, you can catch up with all the latest on the Mars 2020 mission on our Perseverance liveblog.
Space geeks have revealed stunning 4K footage of Mars captured by Nasa’s Curiosity rover.
And, Elon Musk has warned that humanity may “self-extinguish” before we can colonise Mars.
What do you make of Nasa’s Mars mission? Let us know in the comments!
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