A stunning new photograph has been released by NASA from the surface of Mars with a video of the rover's landing also shared. The US space agency unveiled a first-of-its-kind video the Mars Perseverance rover captured as it touched down on the Red Planet. It also released the first audio recorded on the surface of Mars. The minute-long footage is of the rover recording itself while landing on the planet on February 18, the first time such video has been captured.
It shows the parachute deployed for landing, and the Martian surface below, with the rover getting slowly closer to landing, and dust on the surface being rapidly disturbed before it finally touches down. The agency also released audio of the first ever sounds recorded from the surface of Mars. A microphone on board the rover captured a gust of wind on the Red Planet, and the sounds of Perseverance.
The agency also released new images the rover took on the Martian surface. An extraordinary panoramic image of the planet from the landing site shows the red rocky surface with mountains and a delta visible in the distance. After the rover, which blasted off from Earth last July, entered the Martian atmosphere there were "seven minutes of terror" as it made its way to the surface.
The rover - a scientific laboratory the size of a car - is on a mission to search for signs of ancient life and explore and collect samples for future return to Earth from diverse environments on Mars. Perseverance will spend the coming years scouring for signs of ancient microbial life in a mission that will bring back samples from Mars to Earth and prepare the way for future human visitors.
Scientists know that 3.5 billion years ago Jezero was the site of a large lake, complete with its own delta. They believe that while the water may be long gone, somewhere within the crater, or maybe along its 2,000-foot-tall (610 metre) rim, evidence that life once existed there could be waiting. Perseverance will gather rock and soil samples using its drill and will store the sample cores in tubes on the Martian surface ready for a return mission to bring around 30 samples to Earth in the early 2030s.
It will also trial technologies to help astronauts make future expeditions to Mars. These include testing a method for producing oxygen from the Martian atmosphere, identifying other resources such as subsurface water, and improving landing techniques. They also involve characterising weather and other environmental conditions that could affect future astronauts living and working on Mars.