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Nasa's Mars Perseverance rover sends fascinating first colour images to Earth
19 February 2021, 19:50 | Updated: 19 February 2021, 19:54
Nasa's Perseverance rover has sent its first fascinating colour images of the surface of Mars back to scientists on Earth.
The spacecraft transmitted the captivating pictures back to mission control on Friday less than 24 hours after touching down on the Red Planet.
One snap shared on the rover's Twitter account revealed a barren and dusty landscape and the shadow of the space probe on the ground.
Speaking at a Nasa news briefing in California to unveil the images, Hallie Gengl, instrument data systems operation lead for the space agency's Multimission Image-Processing Laboratory, said: "This is our first colour front Haz-Cam [hazard camera] image and our first colour image from the surface of Mars."
A message on the rover's Twitter account said: "An open horizon, with so much to explore. Can't wait to get going."
The team of Nasa officials revealed Perseverance touched down 2km (1.24 miles) from its landing site of an ancient river delta.
Another picture taken by the spacecraft, and shared on social media, showed what appeared to be yellow rocks next to one of the vehicle's wheels.
The 'rover' tweeted: "I love rocks. Look at these right next to my wheel. Are they volcanic or sedimentary? What story do they tell? Can't wait to find out."
Adam Steltzner, the chief engineer on the project, said the vehicle's successful landing is an “epic effort” that represents eight years and “over 4000 human years of investment".
A third image released by Nasa shows Perseverance two metres above the surface of Mars seconds before it touched down on the Red Planet.
It was accompanied by the following tweets: "The moment that my team dreamed of for years, now a reality. Dare mighty things."
"This shot from a camera on my “jetpack” captures me in midair, just before my wheels touched down."
Attached to the spacecraft is a small helicopter-like rotorcraft called Ingenuity - the first flying machine ever sent to another planet - that will fly over the surface of Mars taking colour pictures and video.
However, the drone is not expected to fly for another 61 days at least - or 60 sols, Mars days, which are 37 minutes longer than Earth days.
Perseverance is expected to start driving in around eight or nine sols, meaning it could get going before the end of February.
I love rocks. Look at these right next to my wheel. Are they volcanic or sedimentary? What story do they tell? Can’t wait to find out.#CountdownToMarshttps://t.co/7w3rbvbyoL pic.twitter.com/H3q1M0YJAd— NASA's Perseverance Mars Rover (@NASAPersevere) February 19, 2021
Another picture captured the spacecraft in midair floating over Mars while hanging from a parachute during the tense landing.
The image was taken by the camera on the High Resolution Imaging Science Experiment on Nasa's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter.
Perseverance had been travelling through space for seven months before it entered the Martian atmosphere on Thursday, before taking seven minutes to land - travelling at 12,100mph, or 16 times the speed of sound, towards the surface.
However, it took more than 11 minutes for news of the safe landing to reach Earth, arriving at just before 9pm (GMT) on Thursday.
Its mission is to search for signs of ancient life, and explore and collect samples for future return to Earth from diverse environments on Mars.
The rover will spend the coming years scouring for signs of ancient microbial life in a mission that will bring back samples from Mars to Earth and prepare the way for future human visitors.