NASA's Perseverance rover has captured a brand new 360° panorama of the surface of Mars that, with added audio of the wind whistling, is the closest yet to what it would feel like to stand on the Red Planet.
The interactive video released by NASA lets you plug in headphones and use your mouse or finger to scroll and look around you. As you look about you can see the Van Zyl Overlook, where Perseverance was parked for 13 days watching Ingenuity's first historic flight. You can even see the Mars helicopter at Wright Brothers Field and rover tracks from when Perseverance apparently spun in a circle to get a good view. In the distance, you can see the rim of Jezero Crater, where Perseverance is exploring now that it has officially started its science mission.
Of course, this isn't a direct recording of what Perseverance can see and hear as it happened. The clever folks at NASA painstakingly work to combine data sent back by the rover and present it in a form that they can share with the world to inspire wonder in us Earthlings.
The 2.4-billion-pixel panorama is made from stitching together 992 images taken by Perseverance's right MastCam-Z between April 15-26, 2021. Additionally, another panorama taken by the navigation cameras on March 20 has been added that looks down on the rover's decking, like it was looking down at itself. The sky has been digitally smoothed and expanded based on the actual sky color observed on the days the images were taken, and the audio recording was actually recorded in February. But this is still the closest a human can get to experiencing another world like Mars, and for that, we are ever thankful to the wizards at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL).
On June 1, Perseverance left the Octavia E. Butler landing site to kick off its science phase after spending the last few weeks undergoing tests and chaperoning Ingenuity as it flitted about on its wildly successful flights, exceeding all expectations. Now, the rover will start exploring Jezero Crater, surveying some of the oldest geological features while scientists back home start bringing online its auto-navigation and sampling systems.
Perseverance is on Mars to dig further into the fascinating question of if there is – or ever has been – life on Mars. It will also be studying the geology of the region, with the aim of providing a very exciting first in off-world exploration.
“We are putting the rover’s commissioning phase as well as the landing site in our rearview mirror and hitting the road,” said Jennifer Trosper, Perseverance project manager at JPL. “Over the next several months, Perseverance will be exploring a 1.5-square-mile [4-square-kilometer] patch of crater floor. It is from this location that the first samples from another planet will be collected for return to Earth by a future mission.”