The Mars rover touched down in Jezero Crater on Thursday evening (February 18), wrapping up a gruelling seven-month trip through space. As NASA’s mission controllers cheered on the success of the mission, Perseverance already began to send back pictures and data from the Red Planet’s surface. The very first picture snapped by the rover was taken right after touchdown.
The black and white photo is partially obscured by a dust cover but you can see Perseverance casting its shadow onto a rock-strewn field.
Perseverance snapped the photo with its Left Hazard Avoidance Camera at 3.53pm Mars time.
A second photo taken by its Right Hazard Avoidance Camera followed soon after, with an equally murky view of the Red Planet.
You can see all of the latest pictures and raw images snapped by Perseverance by clicking here.
Out first proper look at the rover came from a high-resolution still taken from a video on board the rover’s descent stage.
The picture shows the rover about six-and-a-half feet off the ground and moments before landing, suspended on nylon cables from a jetpack-like device known as the Skycrane.
After plummeting through the Martian atmosphere for about seven minutes, the Skycrane’s eight rocket engines slowed the rover down to a leisurely 1.7mph.
Perseverance was then lowered to the ground while Skycrane detached and flew off to crash at a safe distance.
Flight systems engineer Aaron Stehura said: “This is something that we’ve never seen before. It was stunning, and the team was awestruck.
“There’s just a feeling of victory that we were able to capture these and share it with the world.”
The image was also called iconic by chief engineer Adam Steltzner, who compared it to the photo of Buzz Aldrin’s footprint on the Moon.
The rover’s first colour photo was taken by one of the Hazard Cameras, or Hazcams, mounted on Perseverance’s underside.
You can clearly see the rusty brown soil and rocks of Jezero Crater stretching out into the horizon.
Scientists picked Jezero Crater for the Mars landing because it is believed to have once flowed with water.
When Mars resembled a young Earth some 4 billion years ago, there is evidence of a hot and humid climate as well as lakes and rivers.
This environment may have been the perfect setting for life to begin and, if it did, then experts believe Jezero is the right place to look for it.
Perseverance is the fifth rover NASA has sent to Mars but it is also the first mission with the primary goal of searching for evidence of past life.
Perseverance also happens to be the first rover to take most of its pictures in colour.
One of these pictures showed an up-close view of one of the rover’s six wheels.
The Mars rover was also snapped mid-landing by NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO).
The orbiter’s image reveals two specks of white – Perseverance and its parachute – against the stunning backdrop of the ancient river delta.
MRO was roughly 453 miles away from the rover at the time and travelling at about 6,750mph – three kilometres per second.
NASA said: “The extreme distance and high speeds of the two spacecraft were challenging conditions that required precise timing and for Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter to both pitch upward and roll hard to the left so that Perseverance was viewable by HiRISE at just the right moment.”
The rover’s mission is expected to last at least one Mars year – about two Earth years – and the rover will collect rock samples for future return to Earth.
NASA has partnered with the European Space Agency (ESA) to collect the samples with a follow-up mission between 2026 and 2028 for return by 2031.