What is it like to land on Mars?
Now you can watch, in riveting, high-definition clarity as if you were there.
On Monday, NASA released a short video captured by the agency’s Perseverance spacecraft as it dropped through the Martian atmosphere on Thursday last week, ending with the successful arrival of the rover on Mars’s surface. It is the first video of its kind sent back to Earth from the planet.
“It gives me goose bumps every time I see it,” said David Gruel, an engineer at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory who worked on the camera system that was designed to capture the landing from various angles.
While the video will help engineers assess the spacecraft’s landing for future missions, it has a broader purpose, too.
“A lot of it is also to bring you along on our journey, our touchdown to Mars and, of course, our surface mission as well,” said Michael M. Watkins, the director of the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, which built Perseverance and is now operating the mission.
Dr. Watkins, who spoke during a news conference on Monday, showed an image that was taken by NASA’s Mariner 4 in 1965, the first sent back to Earth during the first successful flyby of a spacecraft of Mars.
“That was hand colored by the engineers according to a code,” he said. “It’s a lot like a paint by numbers.”
Today, miniature camera systems in cellphones can capture high-definition videos. Matt Wallace, a deputy project manager on the mission, said he had the idea of putting cameras all over the rover and its landing system about 11 years ago, when his daughter strapped a small video camera on herself and did a back flip.
“I felt for a moment I had a glimpse into what it would be like if I could do a back flip,” he said.
He thought perhaps something similar could give people on Earth the sensation of landing on Mars.
Mr. Gruel said the most important consideration was to “do no harm” that could endanger the entry, descent and landing portion of the mission, or the E.D.L., in which the rover had to slow down from more than 12,000 miles per hour to a safe stop on the surface seven minutes later.
If the cameras — slightly modified ones that were purchased commercially — worked, that would be great. If not, that would not be considered a loss for the science objectives of mission.
“If we could even get just one image or one piece of information back during E.D.L.,” Mr. Gruel said, “we shouldn’t get upset and we should be excited.”
The cameras worked.
Three cameras were on the top of the entry capsule, facing upward. One failed, but two captured the parachute shooting upward at about 100 miles per hour and then billowing open to slow a spacecraft that was speeding toward the ground at 1,000 miles per hour.
“You can get a sense really of how violent that parachute deploy and inflation are,” said Allen Chen, the engineer in charge of the E.D.L. system.
In addition, there was one camera on the descent stage — the rocket-powered jetpack that lowered the Perseverance rover to the ground — and two on the rover itself. One was on the top side, looking up at the descent stage, and the other was on the bottom, looking down at the Martian landscape as the rover approached the ground, setting down within a 30-mile-wide crater named Jezero.
Except for a few small glitches, the landing system appeared to perform flawlessly.
The same landing system successfully put an earlier rover, Curiosity, on Mars, but there were no cameras to record that event. This was the first time that engineers, like Mr. Chen, saw how the system with which they had worked for years actually performed.
The one part of Mr. Gruel’s system that failed to work at all was a microphone that was to record the sounds as Perseverance fell through the atmosphere. The problem appears to have been some communication error, not a problem with a microphone itself, and Mr. Gruel instead plays sounds of wind, blowing at about 10 miles per hour, that the rover recorded after it landed.
“I invite you to sit back and have a listen to what it would sound like to be on Mars,” he said.
Once Perseverance’s systems have been checked, it will embark on its mission of exploring layers of ancient river sediments that could preserve chemical signs of ancient microbial Martian life if life ever arose on Mars. It will also drop off an experimental helicopter, Ingenuity, which will try to fly in the evanescent air of Mars.
Images captured from the surface of Mars by higher-resolution cameras have also been sent to Earth, already providing fodder for discussion. So far, scientists are describing what they see in very general terms — light rocks, dark rocks, holey rocks that seem to be full of holes.
“One of the possibilities for those holes is that they are called vesicles, which would be due to gas escape from a volcanic rock,” said Kenneth Williford, the deputy project scientist. “We’re not calling them vesicles at this point, because it’s important for us to stay open to different possible interpretations.”
It has taken a while for the videos to make their way to Earth. There is no high-speed internet connection between Earth and Mars. Instead, the data had to be relayed through orbiting spacecraft. The speed at which the data is transmitted can seem glacial, especially when the file is a stunning high-resolution video like the one captured by Perseverance.
None of the spacecraft previously sent to Mars had cameras that could take pictures at video rates. Instead, they took multiple photos through color filters that could then be pieced together to create a color photograph. And while sequences of black-and-white images from Mars have been pieced into video clips before, Perseverance’s movies are video in the conventional sense of the word.
Indeed, some have wondered how NASA should make clear which videos are animations put together by artists and which are beamed from Mars.
“I think we should label them going forward,” Mr. Chen said. “Now that we have this kind of video, we should be clear about what’s real.”