In end-February, NASA’s Perseverance rover finally landed on Mars.
In the days that followed, Perseverance sent back several images, including its first-ever photo of the Jerezo crater on Mars where it landed, a first ever-selfie, and a 360-degree panorama of Mars made from 142 photos. But what does Perseverence look like on the Martian surface? European space agency may finally have an answer.
The Trace Gas Orbiter (TGO), which is part of the ESA-Roscosmos ExoMars program, recently shared photos of Perseverance. From its vantage point, high above the Martian skies, the TGO caught sight of Perseverance in the Jezero crater and acquired images that show the rover and other elements of its landing vehicle.
Among the discarded items was a heat shield that protected Perseverance from temperatures of 1,300 degrees C as it flew through the atmosphere.
ESA said as well as capturing images of the landing site, it also helped relay data about the landing back to NASA mission control in California.
ESA also shared a false colour image of NASA’s Perseverance on Mars’ surface on Twitter.
There you are @NASAPersevere! I finally got the chance to take a photo of you in your new home 😊 #CountdownToMars 📷 @ExoMars_CaSSIS https://t.co/Zl2FhZ2Z8q #ExploreFarther #Mars pic.twitter.com/1CoOrs1r1S— ExoMars orbiter (@ESA_TGO) February 25, 2021
‘The ExoMars Trace Gas Orbiter provided significant data relay services around the landing of Perseverance,’ the European agency said in a statement, reports Daily Mail.
They said this included ‘supporting the return of the videos and imagery taken by the mission’s onboard cameras during the descent of the rover to the surface of Mars.’
NASA has taken its own satellite images of Perseverance and its landing detritus using the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter, which also acts as a data relay for both Curiosity and Perseverance.
ExoMars will continue to help provide data relay support between Earth and Mars for various NASA surface missions – including InSight, Perseverance and Curiosity.
It will also help in the next stage of the ExoMars mission, which will see Europe land a rover on the Red Planet to search for signs of ancient Martian life.
Perseverance sailed through space for nearly seven months, covering 293 million miles (472 million km) before piercing the Martian atmosphere at 12,000 miles per hour (19,000 km per hour) to begin its descent to the planet’s surface. The spacecraft’s self-guided descent and landing during a complex series of maneuvers that NASA dubbed “the seven minutes of terror” stands as the most elaborate and challenging feat in the annals of robotic spaceflight.
Scientists hope to find biosignatures embedded in samples of ancient sediments that Perseverance is designed to extract from Martian rock for future analysis back on Earth – the first such specimens ever collected by humankind from another planet.
Two subsequent Mars missions are planned to retrieve the samples and return them to NASA in the next decade.