‘Perseverance’ rover begins its Mars exploration
Published: 11:27 AM, 6 March 2021
Perseverance; Photo: Collected
The Mars rover ‘Perseverance’ has successfully conducted its first test drive on the red planet, US space agency NASA said Friday.
“The six-wheeled rover traveled about 6.5 meters (21.3 feet) in 33 minutes on Thursday,” NASA said. “It didn’t move far.”
Perseverance drove four meters forward, turned 150 degrees on the left and backed up 2.5 meters, leaving tire tracks in the Martian dust.
Meanwhile, NASA’s deputy project scientist Katie Stack Morgan described Perseverance’s such activities as a “significant moment”.
“While the rover is still doing a lot of engineering checkouts, the minute ‘the rubber’ begins to move we can consider ourselves explorers on the surface of Mars,” she told BBC News.
Anais Zarifian, a Perseverance mobility testbed engineer at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, said the test drive went “incredibly well” and represented a “huge milestone for the
mission and the mobility team.”
“We’re going to do some longer drives,” she also said, adding, “This is just the beginning.”
“A slightly longer trip was planned for Friday, and perhaps another Saturday if all goes well,” NASA said.
The rover can cover 200 meters per Martian day – which is slightly longer than a day on Earth.
Perseverance deputy mission manager Robert Hogg said engineers were also preparing for the first “flight of a helicopter drone” carried by the rover. “The rover team was working out flight zones and hoped to conduct the first flight in late spring or early summer,” he said.
The mission had not experienced any major problems so far, he added.
‘Perseverance’ was launched on July 30, 2020, and landed on the surface of Mars on February 18 on a mission to search for signs of past life on the Red Planet. The rover’s primary mission will last just over two years but it is likely to remain operational.
So far, the mission sent back more than 7000 photos, including one of light brown rock that was used to test a device called ‘SuperCam’, an ultra-sophisticated French-made camera.
Source: AFP, BBC