NASA’s Perseverance rover may not have even moved from its landing spot on Mars in the past week, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t already thousands of images being shared from the red planet. The latest science-lab-on-wheels successfully touched down on Martian soil last Thursday, February 18, and has been steadily beaming back content to the Jet Propulsion Lab ever since.
It was no ordinary landing: indeed, had human passengers been onboard, even the most jaded of frequent-flyers would probably have applauded at touchdown. Perseverance first had to slow dramatically through the Martian atmosphere, deploy a vast parachute to shed even more speed, and then hover down on sixteen rockets to just above the surface.
At that point, the Sky Crane could lower the rover down to the planet, a dramatic dangling which produced video and photos fit for a science-fiction movie. While humans may not have hitched a ride, several cameras did, which NASA subsequently used to cut together a mesmerizing video of the descent. It was made all the more nail-biting as – due to the time lag between Earth and Mars – Perseverance was programmed to do the whole thing itself.
NASA regularly flags new photos from Perseverance’s cameras, of which the rover is equipped with many: 19, in fact, along with two microphones. They vary in quality in capabilities, though this time around Perseverance has a zoom lens for close-ups – something its predecessor, Curiosity, lacks – and even higher resolution on some of the cameras. However, you don’t need to wait for NASA to cherry-pick its favorites.
The JPL team actually shares all of the raw images that Perseverance sends back, in an album that has been growing fast this week. Seven days after landing, there are over 5,600 images to browse. Users can also vote for their favorites, with an “image of the week’” being picked each time.
Now, you’ll need a little patience if you want to go through them all, since a lot are very similar to each other. As the name suggests, these are the raw uploads from Perseverance, and the rover definitely errs on the side of more content rather than less. Still, if like many of us you still can’t quite get over the fact that we landed another robot on Mars successfully, that may not be such an issue.
Currently, only a portion of Perseverance’s cameras have sent back images. That includes some of the so-called engineering cameras – like the navigation cameras and “Hazcam” cameras which are used to decide routes and spot any nearby potential hazards – and the dual Science Cameras, Mastcam-Z Left and Right, which are equipped with Perseverance’s zoom. The most striking shots are still from the Entry, Descent, and Landing Cameras, which were mounted looking up and down from the rover, looking down from the descent stage, and finally two upward looking parachute cameras.
Meanwhile, if you’d rather treat your ears instead of your eyes, NASA has also released an audio clip of what the surface of Mars sounds like.