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Wild NASA image shows Perseverance rover just before Mars touchdown

NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter also snapped a lucky view from over 400 miles away.

Welcome to Mars, Perseverance rover. This stunning view was captured during the landing process as the rover was lowered to the surface.

This story is part of Welcome to Mars, our series exploring the red planet.

We have a new iconic space exploration image, and it's every bit as powerful as the finest Apollo images of the moon. NASA's Perseverance rover successfully landed on the surface of Mars on Thursday, and it had a suite of cameras in place to view the action.

The rover initially sent back some low-resolution surface shots, but NASA has started to release some real stunners, including a wild downward view of the rover being lowered to Mars using the dramatic "sky crane" maneuver.

"The moment that my team dreamed of for years, now a reality," the Perseverance team tweeted as it shared the image. "Dare mighty things."

The image gives a full look at the rover with the dusty and rocky Mars surface below. "This shot from a camera on my 'jetpack' captures me in midair, just before my wheels touched down," NASA said in a follow-up tweet.

The HiRise camera team for NASA's Mar Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO) also delivered an incredible shot of the rover descending to the surface. MRO was 435 miles (700 kilometers) away from Perseverance at the time, but still got a view of the rover's descent stage and parachute.

NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter snapped this faraway image of the Perseverance rover's descent to Mars. The inset image shows a closer look.

NASA/JPL/University of Arizona

The MRO image is remarkable for the degree of difficulty it took to capture it. "The extreme distance and high speeds of the two spacecraft were challenging conditions that required precise timing and for the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter to both pitch upward and roll hard to the left so that Perseverance was viewable by HiRise at just the right moment," the HiRise team said in a statement on Friday.

The rover is busy sending back data from the red planet. The entry, descent and landing, or EDL, process was captured by cameras and microphones, which should eventually give us an unprecedented look at the infamous "seven minutes of terror" that it takes to land on Mars. 

NASA expects to release more from the landing by Monday and will hopefully have audio to share, assuming the systems worked as planned. Until then, this first, awe-inspiring EDL photo could become the newest entry in the space imagery hall of fame, right alongside the Pale Blue Dot and the Pillars of Creation.

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