Mars Perseverance rover photographs its own parachute

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The rover, which landed on Mars over a year ago, has set eyes on parts of its own landing system for the first time.

Perseverance landed on Mars in February 2021 and has since spent its time trundling around on the planet’s surface, recording data, taking samples and learning as much as it can.

While the mission has been a tremendous success so far, it’s easy to forget the remarkable feats of physics and engineering that went into getting such a large, heavy machine onto Mars in the first place.

Like its predecessor Curiosity, its arrival on Mars neccessitated what NASA scientists refer to as the ‘seven minutes of terror’ – a rapid, make-or-break descent through the Martian atmosphere beginning 100km above the planet.

During its descent, the rover had less than 400 seconds to reduce its speed from 12,000mph to just 1m/s – a feat achieved by first using a supersonic parachute, then NASA’s ‘Skycrane’ system that used 8 rockets to slow the rover down as it neared the ground.

Once this system had been deployed, it detached and moved to a safe distance before coming down somewhere nearby. NASA would have normally considered sending the rover to examine the debris, however this was deemed too risky in this case due to the nature of the terrain.

Now though, Perseverance has managed to catch sight of the parachute and backshell without having to make a special trip to go and locate them.

Photographs of the discovery have since been published online.


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