Just minutes after NASA's Perseverance Mars rover nailed its touchdown on the Red Planet, the spacecraft sent back the first two images of its new home in Jezero Crater.
After a seven-month trek to Mars, the Perseverance rover completed the perilous landing procedure nicknamed "seven minutes of terror" on Thursday (Feb. 18), with the successful landing announced just before 4 p.m. EST (2100 GMT, or 1 p.m. PST at the mission's headquarters at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in California. Just minutes after the good news arrived, NASA received the rover's first two images.
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These photographs were taken by hazard cameras attached to the spacecraft and are black and white images; they were also taken with covers still attached to the camera lenses for their protection. Later images from the rover will be much more impressive.
The first image also shows the comforting shadow of the rover itself cast on the Martian surface. The new photographs will also help mission personnel identify precisely where in the landing zone Perseverance touched down.
But these images are just what scientists on the mission wanted to see, showing off the rocky surface of Mars' Jezero Crater. Mission scientists chose the location because they believe that when the Red Planet was still covered in water, the crater was once a lake, with a river delta depositing sediments on its floor.
Studying these rocks, the scientists hope, will allow them to better understand the planet's past habitability and inform the search for traces of life on Mars.
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Meghan is a senior writer at Space.com and has more than five years' experience as a science journalist based in New York City. She joined Space.com in July 2018, with previous writing published in outlets including Newsweek and Audubon. Meghan earned an MA in science journalism from New York University and a BA in classics from Georgetown University, and in her free time she enjoys reading and visiting museums. Follow her on Twitter at @meghanbartels.