After nearly seven months of travel, NASA’s Perseverance rover has successfully touched down on Mars on February 18, 2021. The mission’s goals are to search for evidence of past life and habitable environments in Jezero crater and collect and store samples that, for the first time in history, could be returned to Earth by a future mission.
To safely land on the rugged Martian landscape, the spacecraft used a new technology called “Terrain Relative Navigation.” As it descended through the planet’s atmosphere, the spacecraft used its onboard maps to know exactly where it is and to avoid hazards as it lands on the planet’s surface. For the navigation to work, the spacecraft needs the best possible maps of the landing site and surrounding terrain. And now safely landed, these base maps will continue to serve for mission operations on Earth as scientists plot where the rover will explore once it’s on the ground. The new maps are based on images collected by the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter’s Context Camera and the High-Resolution Imaging Science Experiment (HiRISE) camera and are available online here. Images taken by Mars Express’s High-Resolution Stereo Camera (HRSC) and the HRSC Team created elevation models were also critical in validating these maps.
Also released, and to help with ground operations, is a new geologic map of Jezero crater and Nili Planum, an ancient and cratered highlands. The geologic map covers the landing site and surrounding terrain that the rover will encounter on its travels during the course of its mission. An online viewer for this geologic map has also been made available.