NASA’s Perseverance rover has captured high-resolution images of its Jezero Crater landing site on Mars via its Mastcam-Z instrument, a pair of cameras equipped with panoramic, high-definition, 3D, and zoom functions.
To obtain a 360-degree view of its new home, Mastcam-Z rotated its top or mast in a circle just three days after landing on the Red Planet on February 18.
Mastcam-Z is not Perseverance‘s only panoramic camera. The rover’s mast is also equipped with Navigation Cameras or Navcams, which took their own panoramic views of the landing site on February 20.
Mission scientists combined 142 individual images taken by the cameras to piece together a single panoramic view showing the rim of Jezero Crater and the cliff of what appears to have been a river delta billions of years ago.
Because Mastcam-Z is equipped with zoom capability, it can image both near and distant objects, which will help scientists select rocks and sediments for additional study by the rover’s other science instruments. These functions will also play a role in the eventual selection of Martian samples, which will be stored in tubes for a future return to Earth.
“We’re nestled right in a sweet spot, where you can see different features similar in many ways to features found by Spirit, Opportunity, and Curiosity at their landing sites,” noted Mastcam-Z principal investigator Jim Bell of Arizona State University‘s (ASU) School of Earth and Space Exploration.
Both of Mastcam-Z‘s cameras are mounted on Perseverance‘s mast at a height of six feet six inches (two meters). To provide stereo vision and color images of the quality equal to that of an HD digital camera, the two cameras are mounted 9.5 inches (24.1 centimeters) apart from one another.
For the first time ever, the rover’s cameras also captured images of its entry, descent, and landing sequences. These included two separate cameras, one looking down from the descent stage and another on the rover looking up from it. A third camera on the capsule protecting the rover looked up at its parachute while a fourth camera on the bottom of the rover photographed the landing site.