NASA’s latest Mars rover landed on the red planet last Thursday. The downside to “watching live” is you can’t get a good view of the action, thanks to the distance between our worlds. Today, NASA released a new video showing the daring landing up close, and you should watch. Then drive Perseverance around your home and visit Mars with a new free AR app.
Landing a Mars Rover is extremely hard. It is so hard that only 40% of the rovers sent to Mars have landed successfully, regardless of which Agency sent it. The entire sequence happens in around seven minutes, and sending a radio signal from Mars to Earth takes about 11 minutes. By the time NASA knows the rover entered the atmosphere, the rover has already finished landing. So all of the steps need to be automated.
In the case of Perseverance, that means decelerating through the planet’s orbit, deploying a parachute, shedding a heat shield, getting a radar lock on a suitable landing spot, and navigating to that location. Then the rover needs to shed its outer shell, fire jets from a sky crane, lower away from the crane, and touch down softly enough to survive.
If anything goes wrong, there’s nothing NASA can do. By the time the space agency knows, it’s too late to save the rover, which is what made Perseverance’s successful landing so monumental. But while the live stream gave us information and reaction in real-time, we couldn’t watch what was going on. Now NASA released video that shows the landing in never-be-seen angles. The rover has cameras, and so does the sky crane and other pieces.
Watch the video, and you can see Perseverance fall to Mars, you can watch the parachute deploy, and you can spectate as the final moments towards touchdown happen. It’s a long video with lots of information, but it’s worth watching. We even skipped to the landing for you.
Once you finish watching the video, you might want to know about the Perseverance rover. It’s a much larger, more advanced Mars rover than we’ve previously sent. Thanks to onboard cameras and microphones, it’s already sending back images and audio of our planetary neighbor.
But if you want something more of a first-hand view, check out the Augmented reality app Mission to Mars (for iOS and Android). The AR app has quite a few features with hours of educational content. You can compare the new Perseverance rover app to the previous machines to see size and equipment distance.
But the real fun is in the augmented reality capabilities. You can put Mars in your living room, then drive around the rover. It’ll scale down to fit the area available, but if you have the room, you can make AR Perseverance full-sized.
The education app even has a few game features, and they’re worth checking out. In one mode, you’ll try to land Perseverance on Mars, which entails deploying a parachute, firing thrusters, and more. If you crash, the game will tell you and why.
But by far, the visually appealing mode is Portal to Mars. That mode gives you a “holodeck”-like experience, allowing you to step through a doorway onto Mars. Look back, and you’ll see your home, but turn around, and you can walk up to the Perseverance rover and get a feel for the Mars rocky terrain.
Right now, the app primarily relies on data about the rovers provided by NASA and images and audio taken by previous rovers. But the Smithsonian Channel says it will update the app with new photos and audio taken by Perseverance. Best of all, the app is free and ad-free. You can download it now on Google Play and the Apple app store.