If you were hurtling through the skies of an alien world with the aim of pulling off an audacious touchdown at a hazardous landing site, you might be forgiven for being too distracted to shoot a movie while you were at it.
Yet that’s exactly what NASA’s Perseverance rover accomplished last week on Mars. As the spacecraft successfully executed a series of maneuvers—known as the “seven minutes of terror” because of the high odds of a crash—cameras placed on its various components captured its bold approach. The footage, released by NASA on Monday, provides a jaw-dropping vicarious ride down to the red planet.
The new video has reinvigorated interest in Mars, which is why the prolific space artist Seán Doran re-upped his amazing 2020 movie “Red Planet Rise” on Twitter to help feed the Martian fix. The 33-minute “glide-by” video reveals the many serene landscapes of Mars, as viewed by the High Resolution Imaging Science Experiment (HiRISE) instrument onboard NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter.
Doran’s mesmerizing adaptation of HiRISE imagery includes soaring flyovers of the planet’s expansive craters and plains, along with shots that make viewers feel as if they are coasting through its majestic mountain ranges.
The instrument’s high resolution makes it possible to create videos that look as if they are filmed at much lower altitudes than the MRO.
“[HiRISE] can resolve imagery at 25-centimeters per pixel and height data of around 1-meter per pixel,” Doran said in an email. “The fidelity of the data means that it is possible to recreate drone-like 'glide-by' footage of Mars.”
“I converted the data from HIRISE to create a very high quality 3d model of the scene using Blender,” he continued. “I processed the corresponding image data for the scene in Photoshop and created a glide-by animation in 3DS Max.”
As a final touch, he composited all of this data, along other outputs for the sky and atmosphere, in Adobe After Effects.
While “Red Planet Rise” is in black and white, Doran has also made many color videos from HiRISE data, such as this perspective of the Arabia Terra region of Mars (a key setting in Andy Weir’s novel The Martian, and its film adaptation).
He also noted that imagery from the High Resolution Stereo Camera (HRSC), which is onboard the European Space Agency’s Mars Express orbiter, can also be used to make gorgeous flyover views of Martian features.
So if you are feeling completely Mars-struck after Perseverance’s incredible landing on Thursday—which arrived on the heels of both the first Emirati and Chinese spacecraft to reach the red planet this month—take a moment to experience Doran’s unique tour of our neighboring world. Even though Mars is drastically different from Earth in countless ways, there is an eerie familiarity to this view of its desolate, but beautiful, features.