NASA’s Perseverance rover landed safely on Mars last week, with dramatic video showing the final moments before touchdown. Mars landings are highly complex and full of risk, so much so that space engineers have dubbed the procedure the “seven minutes of terror.”
But even after Perseverance’s six wheels touched the martian surface and the landing was confirmed a success, there were still some very important maneuvers that had to take place in order to ensure the safety of the rover and the integrity of its intended research area.
They involved the rocket-powered descent stage that lowered Perseverance to the surface in those final crucial moments. First, the descent stage had to move well away from Perseverance, and second, it had to locate a safe spot for an intended crash landing.
Both of these maneuvers were executed successfully, and Perseverance on Wednesday tweeted a photo of the moment the descent stage came down on the martian surface a short distance away.
“A moment of respect for the descent stage,” Perseverance tweeted. “Within two minutes of safely delivering me to the surface of Mars, I caught the smoke plume on one of my Hazcams from its intentional surface impact — an act that protected me and the scientific integrity of my landing site.”
A moment of respect for the descent stage. Within two minutes of safely delivering me to the surface of Mars, I caught the smoke plume on one of my Hazcams from its intentional surface impact — an act that protected me and the scientific integrity of my landing site. pic.twitter.com/bG4dekrbvJ
— NASA's Perseverance Mars Rover (@NASAPersevere) February 24, 2021
Perseverance has a total of six Hazcams among its collection of 23 image-gathering devices — the most on any NASA Mars rover to date. With four on the front and two on the back, the Hazcams’ primary function is to detect hazards in the rover’s pathway, which could include everything from large rocks and boulders to trenches and sand dunes.
Engineers will also use the front Hazcams to help it move Perseverance’s robotic arm when taking measurements and photos, and for collecting rock and soil samples.
But the Hazcams don’t offer the best-quality imagery. Far more detailed photos will be captured by Perseverance’s more powerful Navcams (navigation cameras) — the rover recently sent back its first color panorama showing off its new home.
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