Orbiting spacecraft spots Nasa’s Mars Rover in huge crater on planet surface

Rob Waugh
·3 min read
The orbiting craft spotted Perseverance on the surface (ESA)
The orbiting craft spotted Perseverance on the surface (ESA)

An orbiting European Space Agency (ESA) spacecraft has spotted Nasa’s Perseverance Rover on the surface of Mars – along with its parachute, heat shield and descent stage.

The rover was pictured in the Jezero Crater, a 28-mile-wide depression containing sediments of an ancient river delta.

It was spotted by the ESA-Roscosmos Trace Gas Orbiter, which captured the Rover and the components using its CaSSIS camera on 23 February.

The rover landed on Mars on 18 February.

Watch: Incredible footage and sound recording from Mars

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Perseverance will explore the Jezero Crater region of Mars, and will also collect and cache samples of Martian rocks and soil for subsequent missions to collect and return to Earth as part of the joint ESA-Nasa Mars Sample Return campaign.

The Trace Gas Orbiter helped to return the videos and imagery taken by the mission’s onboard cameras during the descent of the rover to the surface of Mars, by providing a data relay.

Nasa’s rover blasted off from Earth last July.

The orbiter spotted components spread over the landscape (ESA)
The orbiter spotted components spread over the Martian landscape. (ESA)

The rover – a scientific laboratory the size of a car – will spend the coming years scouring for signs of ancient microbial life in a mission that will prepare the way for future human visitors.

Scientists know that 3.5 billion years ago Jezero was the site of a large lake, complete with its own delta.

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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, there could be evidence that life once existed.

Last month, British astronaut Major Tim Peake urged Britons to apply for jobs as astronauts as the ESA recruits space explorers for the first time since 2008.

The new astronauts will first fly to the International Space Station – and are likely to be part of missions to the moon in the latter part of this decade.

Successful applicants will be subjected to intensive training, which includes a three-week course in caving and a course in geology (there are more details on how to apply here).

Major Peake said: “Over the next few years and decades, space exploration will become even more exciting as we travel back to the moon and even further to Mars.

“For space missions to succeed, they require highly motivated people from diverse backgrounds to combine their skills and work as a team.

Read more: There might once have been life on the moon

“The next generation of UK citizens have so much to offer the world, and so I would encourage anyone who has dreamt of pushing the boundaries of what is possible to take this opportunity to be part of ESA’s future cohort of space pioneers.”

British citizens of any age are invited to apply, and the ESA is also issuing a special call for candidates with physical disabilities to apply to its astronaut reserve.

The pilot project aims to open the astronaut career path to people who have previously been excluded from space flight.

Those with a lower-limb deficiency or who are considered to be of short stature and meet other recruitment criteria are invited to apply.

Watch: Perseverance Rover sends back first images