NASA’s Perseverance rover landed on Mars on Thursday. After a trip through the Martian atmosphere, the rover was lowered to the ground by a hovering “sky crane.”
Even more amazing: During the final minutes of descent, the spacecraft wasn’t in direct line-of-sight from Earth. So instead, it relayed data to two satellites orbiting around Mars, MAVEN and Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO). MAVEN stored the data for later relay to Earth, in case of a disaster; MRO relayed status information in real-time back to Earth.
A few minutes after landing, the rover began sending back the first of what will eventually be a flood of pictures from the surface. The first two images are from the lower-resolution “hazard avoidance camera,” low to the ground and speckled with dust from protective lens covers. But it doesn’t make them any less remarkable: they’re PNGs snapped by a just-landed spaceship, transmitted to another orbiting spaceship, and then relayed 11 light-minutes away to humans on Earth.