ExoMars Orbiter Snaps NASA’s Perseverance Rover on Red Planet Surface

ExoMars Orbiter Snaps NASA’s Perseverance Rover on Red Planet Surface
The ESA-Roscosmos ExoMars Trace Gas Orbiter has spotted NASA’s Mars 2020 Perseverance rover, along with its parachute and back shell, heat shield and descent stage, in the Jezero Crater region of Mars in images captured with the CaSSIS camera on 23 February 2021. The components are labelled and are seen as dark or bright pixels. Credit: ESA/Roscosmos/CaSSIS/A. Valantinas

For SpaceUpClose.com & RocketSTEM

CAPE CANAVERAL, FL –  Just a few Sols, or Martian Days, after the surviving the harrowing ‘7 Minutes of Terror’ on Feb. 18, NASA’s Mars 2020 Perseverance Rover has been spotted and imaged at her landing site on the surface of the Red Planet by another Martian orbiter namely the ExoMars orbiter along with the parachute, back shell, heat shield and descent stage – complementing another similar surface image snapped by NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO).

“The ESA-Roscosmos Trace Gas Orbiter has spotted NASA’s Mars 2020 Perseverance rover … in the Jezero Crater region of Mars,” ESA said in a press release on Feb 25.

The EXOMars image was captured with the Trace Gas Orbiter’s CaSSIS camera on 23 February 2021.

A labelled version of the ExoMars image with Mars Perseverance components seen as dark or bright pixels is shown as the lead image above. It shows the many parts of the Mars 2020 mission landing system that got the rover safely on the ground.

“In this image, the colours have been adjusted to resemble the typical red colour of Mars, as would be seen by a human observer,” said ESA.

In addition to the thrilling images ExoMars Trace Gas Orbiter also supports NASA’s Mars 2020 Perseverance Rover by receiving uplink of data from the Red Planets surface for hi speed transmission to Earth.

Another unlabeled version is shown below.

The ESA-Roscosmos ExoMars Trace Gas Orbiter has spotted NASA’s Mars 2020 Perseverance rover, along with its parachute and back shell, heat shield and descent stage, in the Jezero Crater region of Mars in images captured with the CaSSIS camera on 23 February 2021. The unlabeled components are seen as dark or bright pixels. Credit: ESA/Roscosmos/CaSSIS

“The ExoMars Trace Gas Orbiter provided significant data relay services around the landing of Perseverance, including supporting the return of the videos and imagery taken by the mission’s onboard cameras during the descent of the rover to the surface of Mars,” ESA said in a statement.

“The orbiter will continue to provide data relay support between Earth and Mars for NASA’s surface missions, and for the next ExoMars mission, which will see the European Rosalind Franklin rover and Russian Kazachok surface platform arrive at the Red Planet in 2023.”

Meanwhile the ExoMars Trace Gas Orbiter “continues its own science mission, focusing on analysing the planet’s atmosphere with a special emphasis on searching for gases that may be linked to active geological or biological processes.”

The MRO version captured by the High Resolution Imaging Experiment (HiRISE) camera aboard MRO is seen below.

This first image of NASA’s Perseverance Rover on the surface of Mars from the High Resolution Imaging Experiment (HiRISE) camera aboard NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO) shows the many parts of the Mars 2020 mission landing system that got the rover safely on the ground. The image was taken on Feb. 19, 2021. This annotated version of the image points out the locations of the parachute and back shell, the descent stage, the Perseverance rover, and the heat shield. Each inset shows an area about 650 feet (200 meters) across. The rover itself sits at the center of a blast pattern created by the hovering descent stage that lowered it there using the sky crane maneuver. The descent stage flew off to crash at a safe distance, creating a V-shaped debris pattern that points back toward the rover. Earlier in the landing sequence, Perseverance jettisoned its heat shield and parachute, which can be seen on the surface in the separate locations illustrated. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/University of Arizona

 

The annotated version points out the locations of the parachute and back shell, the descent stage, the Perseverance rover, and the heat shield. Each inset shows an area about 650 feet (200 meters) across.

The rover itself sits at the center of a blast pattern created by the hovering descent stage that lowered it there using the sky crane maneuver on Feb 18, 2021 at 3:55 p.m. ET.

ESA is also contributing invaluable help with its other orbiter – the Mars Express orbiter circling the Red Planet since 2005.

This elevation map of Jezero crater and its surrounds shows the topography of the broader region, from the highlands (red and browns) to the lower lying floor of the Isidis impact basin (green). The height difference in this area of 1.5 million square kilometres is over 6800 metres, with the floor of Jezero crater lying at an elevation of approximately minus 2600 metres below the ‘Mars Areoid’, a notional plane of equal gravitational attraction, analogous to sea level on Earth. Jezero crater, the landing site of NASA’s 2020 Perseverance rover mission, is marked on the map. It hosts two river deltas from inflow channels that once brought water into Jezero, which is thought to have once hosted a lake. This elevation map was created from ESA Mars Express data. The High Resolution Stereo Camera’s nine sensors, arranged at right angles to the north-south flight direction, record the surface of Mars from different angles and in four colour channels. From the four inclined stereo channels and the nadir channel, which is directed perpendicular to the surface of Mars, scientists at the DLR Institute of Planetary Research and the Freie Universität Berlin compute digital terrain models, which assign elevation information to each pixel. The high resolution of the data processed for this image allows for greater enlargement of the images for a closer look at individual details of the landscape. Credit: ESA/DLR/FU Berlin

Mars Express has imaged Jezero Crater in high resolution and offers excellent chemical composition data as well.

Jezero crater, the touchdown site for NASA’s Mars 2020 Perseverance rover, in context of its surroundings. It is situated between highlands, an impact basin, a volcanic province and an ancient river delta. The dark bluish-black areas are layers of ancient volcanic ash that is widely dispersed by the wind, often piling up into impressive dune fields. This image was created from the red, green and blue channels of the High Resolution Stereo Camera on ESA’s Mars Express, combined with high-resolution data from its nadir channel, which is directed perpendicular to the surface of Mars. The high resolution of the data processed for this image allows for greater enlargement, enabling a closer look at individual details of the landscape. Small gaps in the image mosaic were interpolated. Credit: ESA/DLR/FU Berlin

 

A key objective for Perseverance’s mission on Mars is astrobiology, including the search for signs of ancient microbial life.

The key objective of Perseverance is to carry out an astrobiology mission in search for signs of ancient microbial life in the rocks and soil that may contain preserved biosignatures of microbial organisms in the dried out river delta at Jezero Crater where liquid water once flowed more than 3 billion years ago.

This wind-carved rock seen in first 360-degree panorama taken by the Mastcam-Z instrument shows just how much detail is captured by the camera systems on Sol 3 of the mission (Feb. 21, 2021). Credits: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS/ASU

The rover will characterize the planet’s geology and past climate, pave the way for human exploration of the Red Planet, and be the first mission to collect and cache Martian rock and regolith (broken rock and dust).

The prime rock targets are stromatolites which consist of sedimentary layers on fossilized mats of microorganisms deposited billions of years ago.

Perseverance counts as first leg of a truly ground breaking astrobiology expedition aimed at collecting and caching dozens of pristine soil and rock samples that will be returned to Earth a decade from now in search of tell-tale signs of past life and eventually pave the way for human exploration of the Red Planet in the late 2030s.

Perseverance is that first leg in a multi-mission astrobiology joint venture with ESA to return the first pristine Martian surface samples back to Earth as soon as 2031.

Three future missions currently in the planning stages by NASA in collaboration with ESA will work together to bring the samples back to Earth, where they will undergo in-depth analysis by scientists around the world using equipment far too large and complex to send to the Red Planet.

Watch our live and complete ‘Stay Curious’ with live Perseverance landing commentary today Feb 18, 2021 as well as earlier programs on Mars Mania on Feb 12.

 

Watch Ken’s continuing reports about Mars 2020 Perseverance and Curiosity rovers, Artemis and NASA missions, SpaceX, Starlink, Commercial Crew and Starliner and Crew Dragon and onsite for live reporting of upcoming and recent SpaceX and ULA launches including Crew 1 & 2, Demo-2, ISS, X-37B, Solar Orbiter, NRO spysats and national security missions and more at the Kennedy Space Center and Cape Canaveral Space Force Station.

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Dr. Kremer is a research scientist and journalist based in the KSC area, active in outreach and interviewed regularly on TV and radio about space topics.
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Ken Kremer

Watch for Ken’s continuing onsite coverage of NASA, SpaceX, ULA, Boeing, Lockheed Martin, Northrop Grumman and more space and mission reports direct from Kennedy Space Center and Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida and Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia. Stay tuned here for Ken's continuing Earth and Planetary science and human spaceflight news. Dr. Kremer is a research scientist and journalist based in the KSC area, active in outreach and interviewed regularly on TV and radio about space topics. Ken’s photos are for sale and he is available for lectures and outreach events.

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