Perseverance takes stunning 360-degree panorama of the surface of Mars – About Your Online Magazine


A part of a panorama made up of individual images taken by navigation cameras, or Navcams, aboard NASA’s Perseverance Mars rover (Reuters)

After finding its metaphorical feet on the dusty red surface of the red planet, NASA’s Perseverance rover began sending images home.

The first grainy and gray photos gave way to fully developed color photos of the Martian landscape. And now, we have a 360 degree panorama to enjoy.

The image shows the interior of the Jezero Crater, where the space vehicle landed last week.

In the distance, it is possible to see the cliff edge of an old river delta, which dates back to the time when there was water on the surface of Mars.

Captured in stunning HD, it was taken by the Mastcam-Z from the rover, a dual camera system equipped with a zoom function to help you focus on distant objects.

Part of the 360-degree panorama of the Martian surface captured by Perseverance (Credits: EPA)
The edge of the Jezero crater as seen in the first 360-degree panorama taken by Mastcam-Z, a pair of zoom cameras aboard NASA’s Perseverance Mars rover (credits: EPA)

The panorama was stitched by NASA from 142 individual images taken by the rover on February 20.

‘We are nestled in an ideal spot, where you can see different features similar in many ways to the features found by Spirit, Opportunity and Curiosity at their landing sites,’ said Jim Bell, the instrument’s principal investigator.

The design of the Mastcam-Z is an evolution of the Mastcam instrument from NASA’s Curiosity Mars rover, which has two fixed focal length cameras instead of zoom cameras.

The two cameras on the Mastcam-Z dual cameras of the Perseverance are mounted on the rover’s mast at eye level for a person 2 meters tall. They are 9.5 inches (24.1 centimeters) apart to provide stereo vision and can produce color images with a quality similar to that of a consumer HD digital camera.

What will Perseverance do on Mars?

This image shows the seven seven main instruments for acquiring information about Martian geology, atmosphere, environmental conditions and potential signs of life (bio signatures) (NASA)

The Mars 2020 mission is the first mission with the explicit goal of finding evidence that there was life there.

Over the course of several years, Perseverance will collect and store up to 30 samples of rocks and soil that will be returned to Earth, where laboratories will analyze them.

Its top speed is 152 meters per hour (about 0.1 miles per hour) – slow by Earth standards, but faster than any of its predecessors, as it crosses the delta first, then the old lake shore and finally, the edges of the crater.

The rover could return the samples as part of a joint mission planned between NASA and the European Space Agency in the 2030s.

“The scientists who are going to analyze these samples are in school today, they may not have been born yet,” said Ken Farley, a NASA scientist.

How would these long-awaited signs of life be? “We shouldn’t look for fossil teeth or fossil bones or fossil leaves,” said Farley.

Instead, it is hunting for organic molecules and other signs of past microbial life, a discovery that would be “fabulous”.

The first months of the mission, however, will not be devoted to this primary objective. Parallel experiments are also planned.

Notably, NASA wants to fly, for the first time, a motorized aircraft on another planet. The helicopter, dubbed Ingenuity, must be able to ascend in an atmosphere with only one percent of the Earth’s density.

Another objective is to help pave the way for future human missions by developing a system that can convert oxygen from the atmosphere mainly to carbon dioxide from Mars, as well as a plant.

The space agency is implementing an instrument called the Mars In-Situ Oxygen Resource Experiment (MOXIE), using a process called electrolysis to produce about 10 grams of oxygen per hour.

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Paula Fonseca