Contributed by Francesca Cary
This cropped image, from a 360° panorama named Horizon, was one of the first Mastcam-Z ‘mosaic’ products I made from Perseverance rover data. This image drew me in immediately, giving me the feeling that I was really there. To see what I am talking about, try downloading the full image from here, view it in full screen, zoom right in, and scroll around! Can you spot the rover’s tire tracks, a dust devil, and the Ingenuity helicopter?
The feeling of being there was partially due to how much the surface of Mars reminds me of the Nullarbor Plain – a desert in South Australia and one of the most remote places in the world – where I have spent much time partaking in field trips to track and recover fallen meteorites.
Many aspects of this image share striking similarities to the Nullarbor. Aside from the rim of Jezero crater towering high in the background, the two locations share prominent features such as the flat and barren terrain, red dirt, ancient eroded rocks, arid climate, and even roughly the same amount of trees…
Additionally, drones often accompanied us to the Nullarbor to help us search for the meteorites, so seeing the Ingenuity helicopter (which is essentially an inter-planetary drone!) on the surface of Mars was yet another mirror to my experiences here on Earth. Inspiringly, in both places I have now been privileged enough to witness the first tire tracks made on otherwise untouched land.
This image, Horizon, was aptly named, and I look forward to the new horizons to come in the mission, and back to the old rocky horizons that inspired me to be here with the rover on Mars today.
June 15, 2021