Martian rover sends back ‘overwhelming’ video, audio from the Red Planet

Just four martian days after touching down on the Red Planet, NASA’s Perseverance rover has sent back its first video of its new home: a 1-minute arabesque of color and motion captured from four on-board cameras, as the car-size rover dangles from its rocket-propelled descent vehicle, a red-and-white parachute snaps into place, and the pitted surface of Mars comes slowly into view, dark canyons giving way to ripples of dust that look like giant, rust-colored dunes (see video, above).

But perhaps even more thrilling, an unexpected gift arrived along with the video and the thousands of new images that were downloaded over the weekend: the first sound recording taken from the surface of Mars. The recording, captured 1 day after landing by an on-board microphone, features the whine of the rover, followed by a gust of martian wind drumming gently against the microphone. Hearing that sound was “overwhelming,” said Dave Gruel, lead engineer for the mission’s entry, descent, and landing cameras, at a NASA event announcing the new video and images. “We’re just beginning to do amazing things on the surface of Mars.”

That feeling lasted all weekend as the images and video rolled in, said Michael Watkins, director of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL). “These are really amazing videos. We all binge-watched them over the weekend, if you can call a 1-minute video binge-watching. But we watched it many, many times, and it’s just fantastic.”

The videos and images also suggest the mission is going according to plan: So far, only a few pieces appear to be missing or out of place (an antenna cover, the parachute cover, and a wayward spring), and all instruments are functioning as expected, says Jessica Samuels, surface mission manager at JPL. Next, after a new software upload is complete, the science team plans to do an in-depth examination of the rover’s instruments, deploy its robotic arm, and take Perseverance for its first test drive on the Red Planet.

The only sad note, Gruel says, was that the rover’s microphones malfunctioned during entry, meaning the mission doesn’t have any sound to go with its new video. But the microphone is back online, and he said that his team got through the initial mishap with a favorite mantra: “We get what we get, and we don’t get upset.”

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