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This might be the best Mars landing photo ever taken

Published Feb 19th, 2021 8:05PM EST
perseverance landing
Image: NASA/JPL-Caltech

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  • NASA’s newest Mars rover, Perseverance, successfully landed on the Red Planet this week, and it’s already sent back some incredible images.
  • The latest and greatest snapshot was taken during the rover’s gentle descent toward the dusty surface. 
  • NASA engineers have been hard at work, testing the various instruments and systems of the rover ahead of scientific research which will begin soon.

In the day immediately following NASA’s successful rover landing on Mars, the team’s engineers and investigators were already going through their lengthy checklists to ensure that everything on the rover was working as intended. The robot has since been given a clean bill of health, and it appears that all of the sensitive instruments and delicate systems vital to the rover’s success are working as intended.

Now that the rover has settled and communication between the rover and Earth is established, we’re getting to see some of the first photos that it took during the nail-biting “7 minutes of terror” that stood between the rover and a successful touchdown. A single frame of a video that the rover’s descent stage captured has just been released, and it’s a real stunner.

Because of the distance between Earth and Mars, and the large amount of data that has to travel that huge gap for photos and video footage, real-time images of the landing were out of the question. However, we did get a dusty, blurry image from the rover shortly after it touched down. That was enough to show us that the rover was alive, but this latest photo is a whole different level of awesome.

Here we see the Perseverance rover dangling from its descent stage, slowly drifting toward the surface of the Red Planet. It’s one of the greatest Mars rover photos ever, and it shows a part of the process that we really never get to see. It’s a moment frozen in time, and while the rover was dangling there high above the Martian crust, NASA’s rover team was biting their collective fingers and hoping that the pricey machine was still in one piece.

The even more exciting thing about this image is that it’s just a single still image taken from video footage that the descent stage captured during the landing sequence. That’s tantalizing, as it means we’ll eventually get to see a full high-resolution video of the touchdown.

“In the days to come, engineers will pore over the rover’s system data, updating its software and beginning to test its various instruments,” NASA says in a post showcasing the image. “In the following weeks, Perseverance will test its robotic arm and take its first, short drive. It will be at least one or two months until Perseverance will find a flat location to drop off Ingenuity, the mini-helicopter attached to the rover’s belly, and even longer before it finally hits the road, beginning its science mission and searching for its first sample of Martian rock and sediment.”

It’s a very exciting time to be a science fan.

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