What is it like to land on Mars?
Now you can watch, in riveting, high-definition, like-you-are-there clarity.
On Monday, NASA released a video taken by the agency’s Perseverance spacecraft as it dropped through the Martian atmosphere on Thursday last week, ending with the successful arrival of the rover on Mars’s surface. It is the first video of its kind sent back to Earth from the planet.
It has taken a while for the full video to make its way to Earth — the same frustration that many people have experienced while waiting to download huge files. There is no high-speed internet connection between Earth and Mars. Instead, the data had to be relayed through orbiting spacecraft passing overhead. The speed at which the data is transmitted would have been considered fast by internet users on Earth a couple of decades ago, but today the upload rate can seem glacial, especially when the file is a high-resolution video.
Perseverance set down in Jezero crater last week and will soon begin its mission of searching for chemical traces of ancient Martian microbes, if they ever existed. On Friday, NASA unveiled some of the first color pictures the mission sent back to Earth, including an image of the rover being lowered to the surface by the sky crane, a piece of the spacecraft that is similar to a jetpack.
None of the spacecraft previously sent to Mars had cameras that could take pictures at video rates. Instead, they took multiple photos through color filters that could then be pieced together to create a color photograph. And while sequences of black-and-white images from Mars have been pieced into video clips before, Perseverance’s movies are video in the conventional sense of the word.
This is a developing story.