Scientists of the United States’ National Aeronautics and Space Administration on Friday released new photographs of the landing of Mars rover Perseverance on the Red Planet, including an image of the six-wheel vehicle itself.
The rover’s “selfie” was taken just before touchdown, from a camera installed in its “jetpack”, Perseverance’s Twitter handle stated.
“You can see the dust kicked up by the rover’s engines,” Adam Steltzner, Perseverance’s Chief Engineer said, according to AFP, who estimated that the shot was taken about two meters (six feet) above the ground.
Steltzner said he found the image “instantly iconic” and compared it to images of Apollo 11 astronaut Buzz Aldrin standing on the moon in 1969, or the Voyager 1 probe’s images of Saturn in 1980, Reuters reported.
Perseverance landed about two kilometres from tall cliffs at the base of a ancient river delta carved into the corner of the crater billions of years ago, when Mars was warmer, wetter and presumably hospitable to life, according to Reuters.
Another new image, taken by the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter, captured Perseverance as it was parachuting down through the atmosphere.
A second color image shows one of the rover’s six wheels, with several honeycombed rocks lyng next to it, which according to NASA scientists are more than 3.6 billion years old.
The first two images were released on Thursday shortly after the rover landed, but they were lower resolution and in black-and-white because of the limited data rate available, AFP reported.
On Friday, Pauline Hwang, strategic mission manager, said the rover itself “is doing great and is healthy on the surface of Mars, and continues to be highly functional and awesome.” She said it would be about nine “sols,” or Martian days, before the rover is ready for its first test spin. As of 12.12 pm Indian time on Saturday, the rover had completed 2 sols and an hour.