Nasa unveils 'amazing' first-of-its-kind video and audio from surface of Mars

22 February 2021, 23:03

Nick Hardinges

By Nick Hardinges

Nasa has released a first-of-its-kind video of the Perseverance rover touching down on Mars and the first audio from the surface of the Red Planet.

The incredible video shows the rover risking the historic landing last Thursday, the first time such footage has been captured and sent back to Earth.

During the clip, viewers can see the dramatic moment the parachute was deployed for landing, the Martian surface below slowly getting closer and the dust on the ground being disturbed before the spacecraft touches down.

Al Chen, of Nasa's Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL), said: "These videos and these images are the stuff of our dreams, it's been what we've been dreaming about for years."

The agency branded the footage "amazing" and said Perseverance is healthy and continuing with its planned activities for its first few days on the planet's surface.

Nasa also released breathtaking audio of the first sounds ever recorded from the surface of Mars.

Read more: Perseverance sends fascinating first colour images to Earth

Read more: Nasa's Perseverance rover touches down on Mars

A microphone on the spacecraft captured a gust of Martian wind and the sounds of the rover itself.

Speaking at a press conference, JPL director Michael Watkins said: "This is the first time we've been able to actually capture an event like the landing of a spacecraft on Mars.

"And these are pretty cool videos, and we will learn something, by looking at the performance of the vehicle in these videos, but a lot of it is also to bring you along on our journey, our touchdown to Mars and of course our surface mission as well.

"And these are really amazing videos."

Playing what he said were the "first sounds being recorded from the surface of Mars", Dave Gruel, Perseverance EDL camera lead, said: "We can sit here now and actually tell you that we have recorded sound from the surface of Mars."

The US space agency also unveiled more new images the rover took on the surface of the Red Planet.

Read more: UAE's Hope space mission sends first pictures of Mars

Read more: 'Lift off' - Nasa launches historic Perseverance rover last July

A panoramic image of the planet from the landing site shows the red rocky surface with mountains and a delta visible in the distance.

Matt Wallace, Perseverance deputy project manager with JPL, said he was inspired to find a way to attach a camera to capture landing after his daughter attached a store-bought camera to herself to record her doing a backflip.

He added: "This was not a camera specifically designed for use on Mars. You can purchase the same camera off the internet for whatever applications you might have for it.

"This is most certainly... as far as I know, this is the first time we've been able to see ourselves see our spacecraft land on another planet.

"As far as sound, to the best of my knowledge, this is the first planetary sound that's been recorded."

Past Nasa missions have recorded timelapse videos, and the InSight lander measured seismic signals that were acoustically driven and then rendered as audio.

Nasa has released a first-of-its-kind video of the Perseverance rover landing on Mars
Nasa has released a first-of-its-kind video of the Perseverance rover landing on Mars. Picture: PA

After the rover, which blasted off from Earth last July, entered the Martian atmosphere there were "seven minutes of terror" as it made its way to the surface.

It took more than 11 minutes for news of the safe landing to reach Earth, arriving at just before 9pm GMT on Thursday.

The spacecraft - a scientific laboratory the size of a car - is on a mission to search for signs of ancient life and explore and collect samples for a future return to Earth from diverse environments on Mars.

Perseverance will spend the coming years scouring for signs of ancient microbial life in a mission that will bring back samples to Earth and prepare the way for future human visitors.

Scientists know that 3.5 billion years ago the Jezero crater was the site of a large lake, complete with its own delta.

They believe that while the water may be long gone, somewhere within the crater, or maybe along its 2,000ft-tall (610-metre) rim, evidence that life once existed there could be waiting.

Perseverance will gather rock and soil samples using its drill and will store sample cores in tubes on the Martian surface ready for a return mission to bring around 30 samples to Earth in the early 2030s.

It will also trial technologies to help astronauts make future expeditions to Mars.

These include testing a method for producing oxygen from the atmosphere, identifying other resources such as subsurface water, and improving landing techniques.

They also involve characterising weather and other environmental conditions that could affect future astronauts living and working on Mars.