NASA has released new pictures captured by the Perseverance rover after its dramatic touchdown on Mars.
At a news conference, one of the engineers involved with the ambitious voyage said: “This really is the surface of an alien world – and we’ve just arrived.”
A panoramic image was also shared on the mission’s official Twitter page, along with the caption: “Landing on Mars is a rush of tension, drama, and noise. Then, when the dust clears: tranquillity and grandeur.”
More than 30GB of information has already been collected from the rover – along with 23,000 images as the vehicle descended.
Matt Wallace, Perseverance’s deputy project manager, revealed that he got the idea for the sophisticated camera system after buying his gymnast daughter a sports camera and a harness.
He explained: “I don’t know about you, but I can’t do a backflip. But when she showed me the video – and I watched that camera pan up to the ceiling and the room go upside down and somehow right itself as she landed on her feet – I felt for a moment that I had a glimpse into what it would be like if I could do a backflip.”
Mr Wallace added: “It is unlikely at this point in my career that I will pilot a spacecraft down to the surface of Mars. But when you see this imagery, I think you will feel like you are getting a glimpse into what it would be like to land successfully in Jezero Crater with Perseverance.”
The footage comes days after the US space agency shared colour pictures of the robot’s landing – breathtaking images that will go down in history with the likes of Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin on the moon.
Last Thursday’s touchdown was the culmination of a seven-month journey through space and a “perilous” seven minutes where controllers looked on as the rover entered Mars’ atmosphere at 12,100mph and hurtled towards the ground.
It took 11 minutes for news of the safe landing to reach the control room in Pasadena, California, as radio signals travelled 33.9 million miles to Earth at the speed of light.
NASA chose to land Perseverance near an ancient river delta and former lake known as the Jezero Crater, where it will drill deep down into the sediment of where water once flowed, collecting material that may hold signs of life.
The £1.9bn effort has already achieved much more than most, given how approximately half of all mankind’s missions to Mars have failed.
Perseverance carries more cameras with it than any other interplanetary mission in history – 19 to be exact – enabling us to appreciate the Martian landscape like never before.
The rover is also kitted out with a navigation system to help it avoid dangerous boulders and ravines, a range of scientific instruments for performing experiments, and a miniature helicopter that will become the first rotorcraft to fly on another planet.
But the carefully selected samples of rock and soil won’t be analysed immediately. Instead, they will be sealed in tubes and left in a well-identified place on the surface for a future mission to collect.
During NASA’s livestreamed event, audio of the first sounds recorded from the surface of Mars was played.
An off-the-shelf microphone has been secured to the rover – and remarkably, the device managed to survive the highly dynamic descent to the surface.
For the first time, a wind gust on the planet was captured by the microphone, as was the sound of the Perseverance rover.
NASA’s acting administrator, Steve Jurczyk, said: “For those who wonder how you land on Mars – or why it is so difficult – or how cool it would be to do so – you need look no further.
“Perseverance is just getting started, and already has provided some of the most iconic visuals in space exploration history. It reinforces the remarkable level of engineering and precision that is required to build and fly a vehicle to the Red Planet.”
And Thomas Zurbuchen, NASA’s associate administrator for science, said the newly released video “is the closest you can get to landing on Mars without putting on a pressure suit”.