The US space agency Nasa on Monday released the first audio from Mars, a faint wind sound captured by the Perseverance rover. Nasa also released the first video of the landing of the rover on the Red Planet.
A microphone did not work during the descent but the rover was able to capture audio once it landed on Mars. Nasa engineers played a short audio clip of what they said was a wind gust on the surface.
The video clip, lasting three minutes and 25 seconds, showed the deployment of the parachute and the rover's touchdown on the surface of Mars in a cloud of dust.
From the moment of parachute inflation, the camera system covers the entirety of the descent process. The footage from HD cameras aboard the spacecraft starts 7 miles (roughly 11 kilometers) above the surface, showing the supersonic deployment of the most massive parachute ever sent to another world, and ends with the rover’s touchdown in the crater, according to an official release from Nasa.
"These are really amazing videos," Michael Watkins, director of Nasa's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, said at a briefing for reporters. "This is the first time we've ever been able to capture an event like the landing on Mars."
Jessica Samuels, Perseverance's surface mission manager, said the rover was operating as expected so far. "I am happy to report that Perseverance is healthy," Samuels said.
The video also captures the heat shield dropping away after protecting Perseverance from extreme temperatures during its entry into the Martian atmosphere. At around 2 minutes and 45 seconds, the cameras capture the descent stage performing the sky crane maneuver over the landing site. The clip ends with Perseverance’s aluminum wheels making contact with the surface at 1.61 mph (2.6 km per second).
According to the release, five commercial off-the-shelf cameras located on three different spacecraft components collected the stunning imagery. Two cameras on the back shell, which protected the rover on its journey, took pictures of the parachute inflating. A camera on the descent stage provided a downward view – including the top of the rover – while two on the rover chassis offered both upward and downward perspectives.
"This video of Perseverance’s descent is the closest you can get to landing on Mars without putting on a pressure suit,” Thomas Zurbuchen, Nasa associate administrator for science, said in the release.
Nasa also released the mission’s first panorama of the rover’s landing location, taken by the two navigation cameras located on its mast. As of now, the rover is undergoing an extensive systems and instruments check. Once these tests are complete, the rover is expected to beam down high-resolution, 360-degree panorama of the Jezero crater, captured by the Mastcam-Z, an instrument with next-gen zoom capability that will help the mission make 3D imagery more easily.