Mars Rover beams back first video images of its dramatic descent to surface

NASA have released new video images of the landing of the Perseverance Rover on the surface of Mars.

The dramatic footage, taken by cameras on board the probe and its sky crane, show the events leading up to the successful touchdown on the surface of the red planet.

  • Watch our interview with Dr David Morris of Teledyne e2v

The rover, which blasted off from Earth last July, carries on board sensor equipment designed in Essex, by Chelmsford firm Teledyne e2V.

Its mission is to seek out signs that microbial life once existed on the planet, it will be collecting a range of samples which will then be returned to earth for study.

Stevenage-based Airbus Space and Defence is working on a probe which will do just that as part of a European Space Agency project.

The Stevenage firm is also involved in the ExoMars mission - having developed the Rosalind Franklin rover - which blasts off for the planet next year.

The rover will also be searching for signs of life.

The research destination of the rover - a scientific laboratory the size of a car - is Jezero crater, a 28-mile-wide depression containing sediments of an ancient river delta.

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.

Any hunt for these signs will include the rover's cameras, especially Mastcam-Z, which is located on the rover's mast.

The mission's science team can task Perseverance's SuperCam instrument - also on the mast - to fire a laser at a promising target, generating a small plasma cloud that can be analysed to help determine its chemical composition.

If that data is intriguing enough, the team could command the rover's robotic arm to move in for a closer look.

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.

Researchers from the UK will study the samples that are returned from Mars. The researchers are supported by more than #400,000 in funds from the UK Space Agency (UKSA).

Selected samples will be collected by drilling down to several centimetres and then sealed in sample tubes and stored on the rover.

When the rover reaches a suitable location, a cache of tubes will be dropped on the surface of Mars to be collected by the Sample Fetch Rover, being developed by Airbus in Stevenage, which will take them to the Nasa Mars Ascent vehicle.

Perseverance also carries the Ingenuity Mars Helicopter, which will fly short distances from the rover in the first attempt at powered, controlled flight on another planet.

A successful test of the helicopter could lead to more flying probes to survey the landscape on other planets. 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.