Video of Perseverance Landing

Many of us watched in real time as NASA got signals from Perseverance sent during its landing maneuvers. However, what we actually watched was video from earth of NASA’s team responding to this news + supplemental videos that were recorded in advance, including a simulation of the landing procedure.

It takes quite a while to send data from Mars to Earth. We can’t easily send a multi-frequency or high-frequency signal. We use radio frequencies for a good bit of the data transfer, and radio frequencies carry very little information compared to, say, a household internet connection. The ubiquitous household internet connections in 2020, after all, allow real time video. But radio signals do not.

You can easily understand how limited these frequencies are by listening to the difference in audio quality between AM radio signals and FM radio signals. Stepping down from FM to AM reduces things so much that not even high quality audio can be sent, even if there is no accompanying video signal. Video signals of any useful quality use much more bandwidth than audio, so it is only now, days later, that Perseverance has been able to successfully communicate over the Mars/Earth radio connection all the data from those video files it recorded during its landing sequence. It may seem like a long wait, but it’s definitely worth it.

This current video is probably the first of several. It includes video from multiple cameras, including on the rover as well as on the separate rocket-powered vehicle that slowed perseverance to a hover and then lowered it to the surface on winch cables. Given that much of the video is made up of a single camera view with no augmentation from other data (radar data, for instance, is not overlayed, but certainly the lander functions required Perseverances brains to coordinate what is was sensing via video cameras with what it was sensing via radar. While the data overlay wouldn’t completely accurately represent the “thought process” of a machine without direct analogs to “thoughts”, it might give humans a sense of what it might be like to be looking at the surface of Mars through a head-up display painted on a human-lander window. Humans, of course, love that kind of shit. For that reason, I think such a mashup is inevitable.

For now, though, let’s enjoy what we have: video from a downward-pointing camera on Perseverance + supplementary views from other cameras, overlayed with audio of NASA flight control staff which you likely already heard on Saturday.




  1. blf says

    As an aside, from yesterday’s (Monday) press briefing, all(?) of the film in that video was made by COTS (Commercial Off-the-Shelf) cameras (slightly modified) connected to a COTS computer running Linux. One camera failed when the mortar which launched the supersonic parachute fired, and whilst the COTS microphone did work, there was a transient fault in the ADC (Analogue→Digital Convertor), so no audio during the descent. The audio recordings which were also released were from the descent COTS microphone, made after landing when the ADC “decided” to work. The entire system is largely independent of everything else on the rover, and was installed specifically to make those films. The COTS hardware is not expected to survive for long.

  2. blf says

    @2, I thought the message was a little bit too obvious, and way too easily decoded. However, an offensive message would set the wingnuts off and so could jeopardise future Nasa / JPL missions (and current staff). In addition to the publicly-known symbols and messages, it’s extremely likely there are hidden or disguised symbols / messages. As an example, it is extremely probable that every JPL mission ever launched has, somewhere, a “DEI” and/or “FEIF” (e.g., there is supposedly a “DEI” underneath Voyager’s record (sorry, cannot recall now which(? or both?) Voyager)). What those mean and why they are very probably present is, well, let’s just say it’s an in-joke.

  3. blf says

    The Onion, NASA Welcomes Litter Of Mars Rovers After Successful Breeding Of Perseverance, Curiosity:

    Proudly announcing the arrival of the newest additions to the NASA family, top officials at the US space agency welcomed a litter of Mars rovers Thursday after successfully breeding Perseverance with Curiosity. “We’re happy to report that Perseverance gave birth to 12 healthy, bouncing baby rovers early this morning,” said Michael M Watkins, director of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory […]. “It will be months before these little guys can open up their image sensors and begin rolling around on their own, but once they do, their mother will teach them how to collect samples and analyze soil composition. […].” At press time, the Chinese National Space Administration had demanded joint custody of the infant rovers, claiming a routine paternity test would show its Tianwen-1 spacecraft, currently in orbit around Mars, was the true father.

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