Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech
Perseverance, NASA’s latest, greatest, and biggest Mars rover landed on Mars last Thursday (02/18/2021) at 3:55 PM ET (according to CNN.com). It was a great success. The Rover traveled 300 million miles on its way to the red planet at a rate of 24,600 miles per hour (mars.nasa.gov). That is fast. Perseverance launched from Cape Canaveral in Florida atop a United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket on July 30, 2020. So, it took the rover around six and a half months to get to its destination. It is very good that NASA successfully pulled off the risky landing since the program cost 2.7 billion dollars (space.com)!
You might be wondering how this topic fits into a finance website. Well, this goes to show what can be done with the sums of money that are regularly discussed on this site, a billion or a trillion dollars. That money is just some numbers in a database until it is spent on something. And this is an example of the innovative, exciting, and necessary missions that can be funded with just a couple of billion dollars. Think of what all bitcoin in existence could fund. Probably sending humans to Mars. If only we spent more of our money on spaceflight, instead of fighting for control of a tiny celestial body. But that is a different story.
Also, a little horizontal integration can’t hurt.
We will get to the video from Mars soon. But first, let’s look at some pictures and an animation of the landing. This way, you can get a feel for the whole process of getting the rover safely on the ground before watching the real thing. But, if you really want to see the real video now, the very first video recorded on Mars in human history, click the button below.
An Animation of the Landing
Here is a nice animated video. It shows the simulated landing of the rover on Mars.
Landing the rover is so complex, and that can be clearly seen in this video. There are so many things that could go wrong, so many steps that have to go perfectly. The whole jet pack thing seems like it would only work once in ten tries. But yet, the rover landed perfectly. And that is good, since we might not get a chance to try this again for a few years.
The Landing Process
First, it is important to be able to visualize the whole assembly that the rover traveled to Mars in:
Now, let’s look at the different steps in the landing process. Here is a diagram that sums it up nicely:
First, the capsule enters the atmosphere. Once it is inside the Martian atmosphere, the supersonic parachute deploys. Then, the heat shield that protected the rover from the immense heat generated by atmospheric reentry friction is jettisoned from the bottom of the capsule. The whole assembly navigates using small thrusters on the back shell. Next, the back shell separates from the rover descent stage (jet pack) and the rover. This detaches the parachute. During separation, the jet pack ignites.
That special rocket powered device now lowers the rover from around a mile above the Martian surface to near the ground. Then, it slowly drops the rover down onto the surface using twenty-five foot nylon cables, a ‘sky crane’ maneuver. Once the rover is safely down, the cables detach explosively and the jet pack flies away to a safe distance before crashing into the ground. This system seems awfully complex, but it must have been the safest way to get the job done. It is amazing that it all worked.
Photos From the Landing and Surface
This is a picture taken by the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter’s High Resolution Imaging Experiment Camera. It shows Perseverance descending under its parachute. The rover is inside the white package in the bottom half of the magnified square. The parachute is the bigger shape in the top half. It is amazing how high resolution the image is.
This is an image looking down on the rover from the jet pack:
Here are two artist’s concepts of the ‘sky-crane’ maneuver:
This is the first image that was received from the Perseverance Rover. It was taken a few minutes after the rover landed.
Here is the second image that the rover took. It was taken by one of the rover’s hazard cameras, along with the first image. These two pictures are low resolution and in black and white because the goal was to get pictures fast. Black and white pictures are smaller, they take up less computer storage, and transmission between Earth and Mars can only be done at a slow speed.
This is the first color image taken by Perseverance. I was surprised by the high quality of the image, and the color of the sky. It almost looks like Earth, albeit on a cloudy day. I also liked seeing that mountain in the background. I wonder how tall it is. Leave a comment saying how high you think the peak is. I can imagine astronauts in the future climbing it.
This is a picture of one of the rover’s big wheels. Some rocks with holes in them can be seen on the ground in the picture. That excited NASA scientists, according to Perseverance’s twitter account. It looks like volcanic rock to me, but I am not a geologist. We already know about the massive volcanoes on Mars, like Olympus Mars, so the idea is not that far fetched. The more intriguing thing is that there is a river basin near the landing site of the rover (NASA). Maybe that will be the place where we find signs of ancient life on Mars, the whole point of the mission.
Some Sounds From Mars
The Perseverance rover has beamed back some sounds from Mars for us to enjoy. This is the first audio ever recorded on Mars, or on another planet for that matter!
Here is some audio from Perseverence. All artificial noise coming from the rover has been filtered out, and what remains are just natural noises. The low pitch is due to the lower air pressure on Mars, according to NASA. The recording is of Martian wind! It is a little spooky, but very interesting to hear. I wonder how easy it will be to hear it through a space suit helmet.
MAKE SURE TO TURN UP YOUR SPEAKERS!
Here is the raw audio from the rover, in case you are curious (like the rover Curiosity, get it?). The whining is artificial noise from the rover itself.
The Video You’ve Been Waiting For!
And now, it is time for us to share with you the video that was taken by the Perseverance Rover. This Rover is the most advanced ever sent to Mars, and therefore has better camera systems. Sit back and enjoy this REAL footage in high definition.
In the video, I noticed a data cable running from the jet pack down to the rover. At first, I wondered what it was for. But now, I figured it out. This video took a little while to transmit to Earth from Mars. That is why we are just now getting the video, four days after it was taken. The jet pack had a camera on it, taking video from an angle looking down on Perseverance. But, after lowering and releasing the rover, the jet pack flew off and crashed a safe distance away. A destroyed jet pack, probably without any transmission equipment certainly could not have sent us the video we see here. But, do you notice how the video feed from the jet pack, above the rover, cuts out right before the rover detaches and the spider-like rocket jet pack flies away? This gave me the idea that the video was being transmitted from the camera on the jet pack down to the rover through that data cable. The rover has the ability to store video, so the rover just stored the footage and transmitted it to us to view. Ingenious. Also, when the rover wheels touched the ground on Mars and the cables were cut explosively (I think that is what happened), that data cable might have given a signal to the jet pack telling it to fly away. But that is pure speculation. It is also possible that the jet pack just
The following image was not taken by the Mars Rover Perseverance; It was taken by Curiosity, a rover that landed on August 6, 2012, and was the direct predecessor of Perseverance. It has a resolution of 1.8 gigapixel, 1.8 billion pixels! This is here because it is a cool look at the Martian surface, and because it is a reminder of what an even more advanced rover like Perseverance is capable of. We have already seen a video from the surface of Mars! Just imagine what will come next.
Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS
Edit: Perseverance just sent back this ultra-high-resolution panorama of the ground on Mars. It is like the one, above, that was taken by Curiosity but looks even better. Here it is:
And, in case you are curious, here are some of the other full-size images that Perseverance has collected using its Hazard Cameras. This is the end of this article. Only images follow.
Feel free to leave a comment.