The space agency released the panorama footage on Wednesday, a few days after it successfully landed its Perseverance rover in the Jezero Crater on Mars.
“The newly released panorama reveals the crater rim and cliff face of an ancient river delta in the distance,” NASA said in a news release.
It also reveals the scene around the rover in extremely high detail, so that you can actually see the rivets on the vehicle and the pores in individual Martian rocks.
The interactive footage is a bit like Google Maps on Mars. You can swipe, drag or zoom the camera to take a look at the full 360-degree field of view around Perseverance, thanks to 142 high-definition photos that have been stitched together.
Click on the image below to explore the panorama footage from Mars.
Perseverance captured the photos with its Mastcam-Z camera over the weekend. The high-definition camera can pick out details as small as 3 to 5 millimetres at close range, and between 2 to 3 metres across on the mountainous horizon, according to NASA.
NASA says the view from Perseverance is similar to what it has seen at past landing sites.
“We’re nestled right in a sweet spot, 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, NASA’s principal investigator for the camera, in the news release.
NASA researchers have already started picking out interesting sights from the Martian surface, including a rock formation that appears to have been carved by the merciless Martian wind.
The rover’s primary mission is to search for signs of ancient life on Mars, and to eventually send samples of the Martian surface back to Earth for analysis.
One of the first steps in that mission is to scan the crater’s surface for rocks that are worthy of closer inspection.
The crater was once a lake filled with liquid water, but that water disappeared about three billion years ago.
Scientists hope that some forms of microbial life might have lived in that ancient sea, and that their microscopic remains can be found in the rock and soil on the surface today.
The rover will eventually collect several samples, package them up and leave them at designated retrieval points, where a future mission will one day retrieve them and fly them back to Earth.
NASA will also scan the photos for a flat spot where it can launch the rover’s miniature helicopter.
All those efforts start with reviewing the same panorama photos that NASA has now released to the public.
That means you can join scientists in scanning the photos for interesting details on the distant Martian surface.
You probably won’t spot any fossilized aliens laying around — but who says you can’t at least try?
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