On Friday, February 18, it will be a year to the day since NASA’s Perseverance rover made its extraordinary landing on Mars.
Extraordinary not only for NASA’s feat of successfully landing its most advanced rover to date on the red planet but also for the simply stunning video footage that showed the vehicle in its final stages of descent.
Thanks to a multitude of high-definition cameras fixed to the descent stage (also called the skycrane) and Perseverance itself, the video provided the best view ever seen of a human-made object landing on the surface of another celestial body.
The final moments of Perseverance’s six-month voyage from Earth were described by NASA as “seven minutes of terror,” so crucial and challenging was the all-important descent onto Mars’ Jezero Crater.
Exactly a year on, we thought it’d be fun to take another look at the footage showing that incredible landing. It features Mission Control’s audio feed together with the team’s ecstatic celebrations when confirmation of the successful touchdown came through.
The diagram below shows the three sections that made the landing possible, and also shows the position of all of the cameras that captured the final stages of Perseverance’s descent.
The footage starts with the deployment of the parachute linked to the back shell. A short while later, we see the heat shield, which protected Perseverance from its high-speed entry into Mars’ atmosphere, falling to the ground.
Just 2o meters from the surface, Martian dust is kicked up by the descent stage’s thrusters, which enable it to hover as it carefully lowers Perseverance to the ground.
As the rover’s six wheels make contact with Mars for the first time, we see the descent stage release the attached cables and rapidly fly away.
Below is another video of the landing featuring extra footage.
After setting down on Mars, Perseverance beamed back the first 360-degree view of its new surroundings.
Since then, NASA’s rover has been exploring Jezero Crater as it searches for signs of ancient microbial life and collects rock samples for return to Earth in a later mission. Perseverance also brought with it Ingenuity, a drone-like helicopter that last April became the first aircraft to achieve powered, controlled flight on another planet.