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ASTRO EXTRA: Video of Perseverance’s descent to Mars

Published: Feb. 22, 2021 at 5:23 PM CST
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GREEN BAY, Wis. (WBAY) - Missions to Mars have come a long way -- literally and figuratively. Monday, NASA released video from the Perseverance’s on-board cameras chronicling its terrifying descent to and safe touchdown on the Martian surface.

In the 1970′s, the Viking landers used parachutes to slow the descent of their rubberized protective shells then relied on thruster rockets to slow its descent to near zero, much like how astronauts landed on the Moon.

In the 1990′s, NASA tried a different approach with its small rover Sojourner. It was tucked inside a pyramid-shaped frame with airbags on all sides and literally bounced, like a beach ball, to a safe landing. NASA used this for the Spirit and Opportunity rovers in the early 2000′s, as well.

When it sent the Curiosity rover, which was the size of a car, it couldn’t rely on such a bumpy landing. Like the Viking landers, it relied on parachutes and thruster rockets, only these were attached to a sky crane, which lowered Curiosity by cables to a soft touchdown as it neared the surface.

Eight years later, this same technique was used with Perserverance -- only eight years more advanced and feeding the appetites of the new era of streaming video. In this “Astro Extra,” Brad Spakowitz shows us video from Perseverance’s cameras of its descent to Mars. For more video and images, click here.

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