The NASA rover, which will hunt for signs of alien life, launched yesterday (July 30) from Cape Canaveral, Florida. Perseverance is now cruising through space on a trajectory that will intercept the Red Planet by February 2021. As the rover left Earth’s orbit, it was photographed by Italian astronomer Gianluca Masi.
The first image features a single white dot against a background of streaky stars.
The dot is the Mars 2020 payload, snapped through a 17-inch telescope.
The image comes from a single, 180-second exposure which explains the motion blur of the stars.
Dr Masi, who leads the Virtual Telescope Project in Italy, said: “The dot in the centre is the Mars 2020 Perseverance Rover Mission to Mars!
“I asked the telescope to point and track it, as soon at it rose above the Italian horizon.
“While still very low above the horizon, I could capture the probe and wanted to share with you this ‘hot’ image right away.
I’m very happy to have succeeded capturing it!”
Dr Masi then created a 100 frame time-lapse of Perseverance flying through space.
The dot in the centre is the Mars 2020 Perseverance Rover
Dr Gianluca Masi, Virtual Telescope Project
A second photo, snapped at about 12.32am on Firday, shows the booster rocket that propelled Perseverance towards Mars.
You can also see in the image a single white satellite trail cutting across.
Dr Masi said: “We are truly excited to have captured it.”
NASA’s rover launched on a mission to hunt for signs of alien life in Mars’ Jezero crater.
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Commenting on the successful launch yesterday, NASA administrator Jim Bridenstine said: “It was an amazing launch; very successful.
“It went right on time, it is on a trajectory now that has been done with pinpoint accuracy, and it is, in fact, on its way to Mars.”
Perseverance will travel through space for about seven months, covering a distance of more than 300 million miles.
On February 18, 2021, the 3,000lbs rover will enter the planet’s atmosphere and decelerate, before triggering an elaborate landing procedure.
First, the rover will use its protective heat shield and outer shell to kill some speed.
The rover will then deploy parachutes to further slow down before jettisoning its shell.
A so-called “sky crane” attachment will then fire a series of retrorockets to control the final stage of descent.
Once a safe height above the ground, the sky crane will winch the rover down, disconnect and fly off to a safe distance.
The same landing procedure was used on the Curiosity rover in 2012.
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