At the NASA press conference today, chief engineer Adam Steltzner presented three iconic images of the space age: Armstrong’s photo of Aldrin on the lunar surface, Voyager 1’s photo of Saturn and its rings from above the ecliptic, the Hubble Space Telescope’s photo of the Eagle Nebula’s “Pillars of Creation” star-forming region. And then he added a new one.
The car-sized Perseverance rover hangs just above the surface, suspended by a bridle of three 7.5-meter nylon tethers from its powered descent stage, seconds before touchdown. The curly electrical umbilical that transported the 1s and 0s encoding the photo also dangles from the descent stage to the rover as the rockets blast regolith outward. Moments later pyrotechnics severed the tethers and umbilical, and the descent stage flew away to crash at a safe distance, leaving the rover six-wheels-on-Mars.