Perseverance : the film of its arrival on Mars

Perseverance : the film of its arrival on Mars

Thanks to several cameras, NASA has captured in unprecedented detail the arrival of the Perseverance rover on Mars. Beyond its spectacular side, these images will enable engineers to refine landing procedures on the red planet.

On 19 February 2021, the American agency conducted a ninth successful landing on Mars and the fifth for a rover. At a little more than a tonne, Perseverance is the biggest mobile device to land on the surface of the fourth planet. It is also bedecked with cameras and sensors intended to capture how this delicate manoeuvre proceeded.

A SPECTACULAR ARRIVAL

On 22 February, after recovering the data transmitted from Mars by its rover, NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) was able to put together on film the EDL sequence (for Entry, Descent and Landing), also known as the «7 minutes of terror».

Below, a first version of this arrival. In succession we can see the opening of the 21-m parachute at about 1500 km/h at around an altitude of 10 km, the release of the thermal shield, then the phase of the flying crane, Sky Crane, which concludes with the descent of Perseverance on nylon slings to land on the surface.

No synthetic images are used in this sequence. Everything comes from the onboard cameras (except for views of the JPL Control Centre, of course).
Below, another, just as fascinating, version.

A TREASURE FOR ENGINEERS

This unprecedented sequence, since we had never been able to document a Martian landing in this way, goes far beyond its spectacular appearance. At the NASA press conference on 22 February, engineers explained that while the film of the events closely followed what JPL’s team of men and women had envisaged, there were some surprises which everyone was going to study closely. The aim? To improve and even refine the process of arriving on Mars, aiming for greater precision, if possible, and also, potentially, a heavier payload. Indeed, a few kilograms less for the landing system could allow them to carry an extra scientific instrument (or more) on future missions.

Une caméra située sur la partie supérieure de la capsule de Perseverance a saisi le déploiement du parachute de 21 m de diamètre à environ 1500 km/h lors de l’arrivée sur Mars du rover de la NASA le 19 février. Crédit : NASA/JPL-Caltech

A camera located on the upper part of Perseverance’s capsule recorded the deployment of the 21-m parachute at 1500 km/h during the arrival of the NASA rover on 19 February.
Credit : NASA/JPL-Caltech

 

La grue volante Sky Crane vue par une caméra de Perseverance qui regardait vers le haut le 19 février. Le rover est alors suspendu au bout de câbles et va être déposé sur le sol martien dans quelques secondes. Crédit : NASA/JPL-Caltech

The flying crane Sky Crane, seen from one of Perseverance’s cameras looking upwards on 19 February. At this stage, the rover was suspended at the end of cables and would be deposited on the Martian surface in a few seconds.
Credit : NASA/JPL-Caltech

 

Le 19 février, une caméra installée sur la grue volante Sky Crane filme vers le bas et saisit le moment où Perseverance suspendu à des câbles va toucher le sol martien. On note la poussière soulevée par les propulseurs du Sky Crane. Crédit : NASA/JPL-Caltech/Cité de l’espace

On 19 February, a camera installed on the flying crane, Sky Crane, filmed downwards and recorded the moment when Perseverance, suspended from cables, touched down on the Martian surface. We can see the dust raised by Sky Crane’s thrusters.
Credit : NASA/JPL-Caltech/Cité de l’espace

 

FIRST PANORAMA OF JEZERO

On 19 February, the rover’s mast was also raised into position. Using the navigation cameras which it houses (located under the French laser camera, SuperCam), several photos were taken and combined to obtain a first panorama of the Jezero crater.

Avec ses caméras Navcam, Perseverance a saisi ce panorama de l'endroit où il s'est posé le 19 février au sein du cratère Jezero sur Mars. Crédit : NASA/JPL-Caltech

With its Navcam cameras, Perseverance took this panorama of the place where it landed on 19 February in the Jezero crater on Mars.
Credit : NASA/JPL-Caltech

This 360-degree panorama will enable scientists and controllers on the ground to get their bearings in Perseverance’s arrival area. After starting up the instruments and other technical checks, the rover will begin to move around in its search for traces of past life.