On Monday, NASA scientists released first-of-a-kind home movies of the daring Mars rover landing last week, vividly displaying its supersonic parachute inflation over the red planet and a rocket-powered hovercraft dropping the research lab to the surface on wheels.
A collection of cameras placed at various angles of the multi-stage spacecraft captured the footage on Thursday as it brought the rover, dubbed Perseverance, to a gentle landing within a large basin called Jezero Crater through the thin Martian atmosphere.
NASA Associate Administrator of Science Thomas Zurbuchen called seeing the footage "the closest you can get to landing on Mars without putting on a pressure suit."
Four days after the groundbreaking landing of the most advanced astrobiology probe ever sent to another planet, the video montage was played by reporters tuning in to a news briefing webcast from NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) near Los Angeles.
NASA also provided a brief audio clip captured after its arrival by microphones on the rover that included the murmur of a light wind raft - the first ever recorded from the sun on the fourth planet.
JPL imaging scientist Justin Maki said NASA's InSight stationary landing craft, which arrived on Mars in 2018 to research its deep interior, has previously measured "acoustically driven" and then "rendered as audio." seismic signals on the planet.
While descending to the crater floor, the microphones of the spacecraft failed to capture functional audio. But after its launch, they picked up a mechanical whirring from the rover. He hoped to capture other sounds, Wallace said, such as the rover's wheels crunching across the surface and its robotic arm drilling for Martian rock samples.
'The Structure of Our Dreams'
But it was film footage from the perilous, self-guided trip of the spacecraft through Martian skies to touchdown - an interval NASA called "the seven minutes of terror" - that was especially striking for the JPL team.
These videos, and these photographs, are the things of our imagination,"These videos, and these images are the stuff of our dreams," JPL Director Mike Watkins said that engineers spent "binge-watching" the footage for most of the weekend.
The video, shot in color at 75 frames a second, portrays action from many angles in fluid, vivid motion, the first such imagery ever captured of a spacecraft landing on another planet, Wallace said.
One of the most exciting moments is the launching of the red-and-white parachute from a canon-like launch system into the sky above the rover as the spacecraft hurries at almost two times the speed of sound towards the ground.
In less than two seconds, with no signs of tangling within its 2 miles (3.2 km) of tether lines, the chute springs upward, unfurls, and completely inflates, Chen said.
As the spacecraft swings under the parachute, a downward-pointing camera shows the heat shield falling away and a sweeping view of the butterscotch-colored Martian landscape, appearing to move back and forth.
"Seconds later, the rocket-powered "sky-crane" vehicle, newly jettisoned from the parachute, is filmed by an upward-pointed camera, its thrusters firing but the propellant plumes invisible to the human eye when dropping the rover to a secure landing spot on a tethers harness.
From the vantage point of the sky crane, a separate camera shows the lowering of the six-wheeled rover, gazing downward as Perseverance dangles from its cable harness just over the surface with streams of dust billowing at touchdown around it. After the harness cables are removed, the sky crane is then seen flying up and away from the landing site.
NASA released a single still picture of the rover suspended from the sky crane moments before landing on Friday amid a great deal of fanfare as a precursor to the video seen on Monday.
The landing video was also posted on the official Twitter profile devoted to the posting of Perseverance rover updates: