NASA has released stunning footage of the Perseverance Rover's final moments of descent and landing on Mars – from chute deployed to touch-down on the surface. The footage mixes video from seven cameras installed on/around the rover and audio from mission control, talking you through the process. The Perseverance Rover landed 5 sols ago.
As the parachute deployed, the module with the rover was about 12km above the surface of Mars and falling at approx 400m/s. A little later (9.5km altitude and at a much reduced 145m/s velocity) the heat shield used by the module to protect it from burning up as it sped through the Mars atmosphere separated so the radar and built-in downward facing cameras could look at the surface of the planet.
At about 6.6km from the surface, radar had the locked position on the ground and the descent had slowed to about 100m/s. At an altitude of about 4km the onboard computer produced a valid landing solution. Perseverance's landing module backshell with parachute separated at about 2.6km from the surface, so the landing engines came into play, and it was noted that at 300m above the Martian surface the descent speed was 30m/s. A short time after this announcement the 'sand' on the surface of the planet looked like it was seeing blown asunder by the thrust from the landing engines.
The final part of the landing process now began, and it is referred to as the Sky Crane manoeuvre. Perseverance's powered descent module lowered the rover to the surface before detaching and flying away – with the rover safely on the floor of Jezero Crater.
The BBC notes that one of the three upward facing cameras failed and a microphone meant to record the landing sounds didn't work either. However, scientists and tech enthusiasts are going to be pleased with the clear video and photos that are due to come from the rover, and at least one microphone is operational now on the surface.
After the landing the commissioning of the rover systems continued. For example, its navigation mast was erected and this features the main rover cameras too. This important period should be completed shortly, before roving begins in earnest with various AV recording and surface material sampling and so on.
Artist impression featuring Ingenuity
Some are rather excited by a drone called Ingenuity, that is part of the expedition, set to perform the first powered flight on another world sometime in April – once Perseverance has reached a point of interest 2km north-west of the landing. That point is what looks to be the remains of a delta that formed when Jezero was filled by a giant lake billions of years ago. The silt there might contain signs of past microbial activity...
You can check out many photos, videos and mission updates at the official NASA Mars 2020 site.