Almost two weeks ago, NASA's Mars 2020 Perseverance Rover landed on Mars after a seven-month journey. The mission team was quick in securing some incredible pictures from inside the Jezero Crater, and more are coming soon. To add to the collections, NASA and the European Space Agency (ESA) have also snapped pictures of the Jezero crater. So, can you spot Perseverance in the images?
The photograph snapped by ESA-Roscosmos Trace Gas Orbiter showed not just the rover but also the leftover elements of the landing. The heatshield, the parachute and back shell, and even its descent stage (starring the Sky crane) are all visible in this peculiar family portrait which is several kilometers across.
The mission hopes to study the tenuous atmosphere of Mars and better understand its rarer components: the trace gases in the Red Planet’s air. It makes up one of several missions - old and new - that are trying to solve the planet’s mysteries from orbit. The image was taken five days after landing.
For a more detailed picture of Perseverance from orbit we need sharper eyes, and that’s where the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO) comes in. Its high-resolution camera HiRISE snapped the same panorama just after landing, followed shortly after by an enhanced image focusing on the rover alone.
Thanks to HiRISE, we can see some interesting details including the V-shape created by Sky crane's impact as it hit the ground. This impact mark was also captured by the cameras onboard of Perseverance which the V shape actually points towards - as it should, considering how the descent stage was expected to meet its end.
As the rover begins roaming around the planet the rest of the landing elements will slowly become covered in dust and eventually fade away altogether, and HiRISE will continue to monitor these changes. Mars might not have strong winds or rain, but the surface still changes over time.
On March 1, the HiRISE team released an enhanced version of the image taken six days after touchdown. It shows the rover surrounded by two bright spots on either side. These were caused by the propulsion of the hovering Sky crane. Darker loose soil was removed as the rover was slowly lowered to the ground, as made visible in the incredible footage of the landing.
The image gives us a good idea of just how sharp HiRISE is. Perseverance is roughly 3 by 2.7 meters (10 by 9 feet) in size and the MRO was about 290 kilometers (180 miles) from the surface when HiRISE took this image.
NASA chose the Jezero Crater as the landing site because it's thought to have once supported a lake. As such, Perseverance will be searching for signs of past microbial life there.