New image of Mars from rover landing site shows red planet in high definition


The Perseverance rover has had a chance to settle on Mars since it landed last Thursday, so it’s doing what every new resident does these days: submitting photos of their new home.

In this case, it is a constant stream of amazing images from another planet.

The rover’s Mastcam-Z instrument, a pair of zoom color cameras, produced 142 images of its landing site on February 21. NASA teams put them together to create the instrument’s first 360-degree panorama.

This is the first high-definition look at Jezero Crater, the site of a 3.9 billion-year-old dry lake bed, where the rover will look for signs of ancient life for the next two years.

In the image, you can see in the distance the edge of the crater and the cliff of an old delta of a river. It is no different than the images previously shared by NASA’s Curiosity rover of its exploration site in Gale Crater.

“We are located in an ideal location, where you can see different features similar in many ways to features found by Spirit, Opportunity and Curiosity at their landing sites,” said Jim Bell, principal investigator for the Mastcam-Z instrument at the School of Exploration Earth and Space from Arizona State University, in a statement.

Perseverance also posted a snapshot using their Navcams, or navigation cameras, over the weekend.

Mastcam-Z is a new Perseverance feature that builds on lessons learned from the Mastcam instrument on the Curiosity rover. Curiosity’s Mastcam has two cameras with a fixed focal length, while Mastcam-Z has zoom capabilities.

These two cameras are like high-definition eyes on Perseverance as you share your point of view with a team of scientists and engineers at home.

They sit on the mast of the rover, reaching eye level for a person who is just over 6.5 feet tall. The cameras are 9.5 inches apart to allow for stereo viewing.

The color images produced by Mastcam-Z are very close to the quality you would expect from your own HD digital camera, NASA officials said. These cameras can not only zoom, but can also focus to capture videos, panoramas, and 3D images.

This will allow scientists on the mission team to examine objects that are both near and far from the rover.

In the panorama, details as small as 0.1 to 0.2 inches wide can be seen if an object is close to the rover, while those between 6.5 to 10 feet wide in the distance are also visible.

These capabilities will aid overall mission objectives both in understanding the geological history of the crater and in identifying the types of rocks that the rover’s other instruments should study. The views provided by Mastcam-Z will also help scientists determine which rocks to collect samples from that will eventually be returned to Earth on future missions.

The team working on the Mastcam-Z instrument will share more details on the outlook on Thursday, February 25 at 4 p.m. ET on the NASA website and social media accounts.

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