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Relive Mars rover’s spectacular landing exactly 3 years ago

A screenshot from actual footage of NASA's Perseverance rover landing on Mars in 2021.
A screenshot from actual footage of NASA’s Perseverance rover landing on Mars in 2021. NASA/JPL

It’s exactly three years since NASA’s rover, Perseverance, touched down on Mars in spectacular fashion.

With Curiosity and others having already reached the martian surface in earlier missions, Perseverance wasn’t the first NASA rover to have landed on the distance planet. But thanks to improved cameras, the footage of its landing was by far the most remarkable, with multiple angles capturing the rover’s final descent in high definition:

The incredible video was captured by cameras that were part of the rover’s entry, descent, and landing apparatus. “The views include a camera looking down from the spacecraft’s descent stage (a kind of rocket-powered jet pack that helps fly the rover to its landing site), a camera on the rover looking up at the descent stage, a camera on the top of the aeroshell (a capsule protecting the rover) looking up at that parachute, and a camera on the bottom of the rover looking down at the martian surface,” the space agency said in comments accompanying the video.

NASA’s Mars team at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in Southern California marked the third anniversary of Perseverance’s landing in a post on social media on Sunday that shared some recent stats about the rover mission.

JPL revealed that in the last 12 months, Perseverance has traveled more than six miles across Mars’ Jezero Crater and taken more than 116,000 images, all of them beamed back to the mission team on Earth for a more detailed look.

Happy landiversary, @NASAPersevere! 🥳

What did our robotic explorer accomplish in its 3rd year on the Red Planet?

– Traveled over 6 miles (~10.6 km)
– Surpassed 1,000 sols
– Spotted dust devils
– Took more than 116K photos

Explore the rover in 3D: https://t.co/MtTrtWuzUG pic.twitter.com/Jm6uTFjEAR

— NASA JPL (@NASAJPL) February 18, 2024

Perseverance’s activities include a search for evidence of ancient microbial life on the red planet. As part of its explorations, the rover has been gathering rock and soil samples that will be collected by the upcoming Mars Sample Return Mission and transported to Earth for careful analysis in laboratory conditions.

A shout-out should also be given to Ingenuity, the diminutive drone-like machine that Perseverance deployed to the martian surface soon after landing. In April 2021, Ingenuity made history by becoming the first aircraft to perform powered, controlled flight on another planet — no mean feat considering Mars’ superthin atmosphere. The helicopter performed way better than expected, taking to the skies 72 times over nearly three years before it was rendered inoperable just last month after sustaining damage to one of its propellers.

As for Perseverance, it’s hoped that the rover will be able to continue its work for years to come, which is a distinct possibility considering that another NASA Mars rover, Curiosity, is still operational nearly 12 years after arriving there.

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Trevor Mogg
Contributing Editor
Not so many moons ago, Trevor moved from one tea-loving island nation that drives on the left (Britain) to another (Japan)…
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