SM: Another one bites the dust...
Perseverance Rover has had an emotional week or so.
Surviving the 7 month journey to an inhospitable planet? Check. Prevailed over the Mars landing sequence affectionately called the '7 minutes of terror'? Check.
Witnessed a friend commit the ultimate sacrifice? Did that too. And we have photo evidence to memorialise the flying fellas necessary death.
The rocket powered 'Sky Crane' was tasked with the descent stage of getting the car-sized Rover Mars-side. Specifically in the massive Jezero Crater.
Moments after the rover's wheels touched martian regolith, the Sky Crane flew off into the distance to have a bit of a self-mischief. Intentionally, by handlers at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, of course.
"A moment of respect for the descent stage. Within two minutes of safely delivering me to the surface of Mars, I caught the smoke plume on one of my Hazcams [hazard-avoidance cameras] from its intentional surface impact — an act that protected me and the scientific integrity of my landing site," agency officials wrote via the mission's official Twitter account.
Perseverance documented its EDL in unprecedented detail, capturing high-definition video with multiple cameras as it blazed through the Martian sky toward Jezero's floor. That epic video shows key events in the touchdown sequence, including the deployment of the mission's supersonic parachute and the moment the rover's six wheels hit the red dirt.
Other robotic eyes were watching on Thursday as well. For example, the HiRISE camera aboard NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter, which has been circling the Red Planet since 2006, snapped a photo of Perseverance gliding through the alien skies beneath its parachute. And a day later, HiRISE imaged mission hardware on the ground — not just Perseverance, but also its skycrane, heat shield and parachute-backshell combo in their various resting spots within Jezero.
Perseverance is the centerpiece of the $2.7 billion Mars 2020 mission, which will hunt for signs of ancient life and collect and cache dozens of samples for eventual return to Earth. The rover is still going through its post-landing checkouts, but it has already begun imaging its surroundings in detail.
For instance, the mission team just released a high-definition, 360-degree panorama of the landing site stitched together from 142 images captured by Perseverance's Mastcam-Z camera system. The gorgeous photo provides our best look yet at Jezero Crater, which long ago harbored a river delta that spilled into a lake hundreds of feet deep.
"We're nestled right in a sweet spot, where you can see different features similar in many ways to features found by Spirit, Opportunity and Curiosity at their landing sites," Mastcam-Z principal investigator Jim Bell, of Arizona State University’s School of Earth and Space Exploration, said NASA personnel.
Thanks for reading and please share with a friend to honour the memory of our beloved skycrane, who made all this possible.