Mars landing: Photo shows Perseverance rover during landing

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Perseverance viewed from its rocket cradle just before landing

The American space agency has released an astonishing image sent back from Mars by its Perseverance rover.

It shows the robot heading down to the ground on Thursday during its landing. It was taken by the rocket cradle that placed the vehicle on the surface.

Perseverance has a large amount of data in its memory banks which it is gradually offloading to Earth.

Among other pictures is a view from a satellite that captures the rover in the parachute phase of its descent.

Nasa is promising more in the next few days.

This offering will include short movies shot during the Entry, Descent and Landing (EDL) sequence - with sound.

Perseverance has been sent to a near-equatorial crater known as Jezero where it will search for signs of past microbial life.

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MRO views parachute

The overflying Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter was able to see the descending rover's parachute

Adam Steltzer, the Perseverance rover's chief engineer, said the downward-looking view on to the robot would become an iconic image in the history of space exploration.

"This is an image of the rover Perseverance slung beneath the descent stage, its propulsion backpack, as it is being lowered to the surface of Mars.

"You can see the dust kicked up by the engines. We're probably about 2m or so above the surface of Mars.

"You can see the mechanical bridles that hold the rover underneath the descent stage - three straight lines heading down to the top deck. And then the curly electrical umbilical that is taking all of the electrical signals from the descent stage down to the computer inside the belly of the rover, [including] the ones and zeros that represent this image."

Ground view

A forward view from the rover on Mars. The shadow comes from the robot arm

Engineers report Perseverance to be in good health, as they gradually commission its systems.

All the hardware needs to be assessed to be sure nothing was damaged during Thursday's plunge through the Martian atmosphere to the ground.


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The most detailed pictures will come next week after Perseverance has raised its navigation mast which carries the main science cameras.

"Once the mast is successfully deployed, which will be on Saturday, we will proceed by taking lots of images. We'll do a deck panorama of the rover. And we're also going to do a full panorama of our landscape around us," said Pauline Hwang, Perseverance's surface strategic mission manager.


Scientists are already starting to analyse the rocks on the ground

Perseverance's landing technologies put it down almost bang on the targeted touchdown zone, about 2km to the southeast of what remains of an ancient river delta that formed at the edge of a lake.

It is sitting on a flat piece of ground at the boundary of two geologic units - a smooth unit under the wheels of the rover that contains dark volcanic rocks; and rougher unit that has rocks with a lot of the mineral olivine in them.

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