If NASA’s landing of the Perseverance vehicle on the surface of Mars this week wasn’t impressive enough, the space agency has just released dramatic footage of the entry and landing sequence shot from the vehicle itself. Although the narration gives the impression of the imagery happening in real time, the video is actually occurring about 11 minutes after the fact to account for radio transmission delay. For its EDL phase (entry, descent and landing), the vehicle flies entirely autonomously, with no possibility of command or control from Earth.
Perseverance entered the thin Martian atmosphere directly from its cruise trajectory from Earth and the EDL phase occurred over about seven minutes. The sequence begins with the “straighten-up-and-fly-right” maneuver, which positions the spacecraft to give the vehicle’s landing radar a look at the surface. The video shows high-definition footage of the spacecraft’s supersonic parachute deployment that begins at a speed of about 900 MPH and 40,000 feet above the surface. For this mission, NASA used a new technique called range trigger, which uses ground radar to time parachute deployment to refine target accuracy. Descent under the parachute is at 325 MPH in an atmosphere no denser than Earth’s is at about 100,000 feet.
The camera view of the landing shows a detailed view of the surface from an altitude beginning at about 31,000 feet and follows the landing through the divert maneuver that keeps the parachute from landing on and fouling the rover. The so-called skycrane rocket phase that lowers the rover itself to the surface on a cable array is also visible. As the landing system approaches the surface, its exhaust is seen kicking up red dust. In addition to the actual landing, NASA also prepared this animated video describing an outside view of the entire sequence.