NASA’s Perseverance rover has taken its first test drive on Mars, the agency announced Friday (March 5).
The car-sized rover that successfully landed on the Red Planet on Feb. 18, just made its first short drive on Thursday, NASA officials said. Percy moved a total of 21.3 feet (6.5 meters) across the Martian terrain with a drive that took about 33 minutes, during which the rover moved forward, turned on the spot and then backed up a bit.
“Our first drive went incredibly well,” NASA’s Anais Zarifian, a Perseverance mobility test bed engineer at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California. Zarifian added that the rover “works beautifully, we were so excited.”
“This is really just the beginning,” Zarifian said.
It’s been two weeks since the one-tone robot made its dramatic descent to the Red Planet.
Engineers have taken the time to put the vehicle into operation and its many complex systems, including its instruments and robotic arm.
“You can see the wheel tracks that we left on Mars; I don’t think I’ve ever been happier to see wheel tracks,” said Perseverance mobility engineer Anais Zarifian.
“This is just a huge milestone for the mission and the mobility team. We’ve driven on Earth but driving on Mars – that’s the ultimate goal, and just so many people have worked towards this very moment for years.”
Perseverance was set in an near equatorial crater called Jezero to look for evidence of past life.
This will include roving of about 15 km during the upcoming Martian year (approximately two Earth years).
Scientists want to reach a number of enticing rock formations in the crater that can preserve a record of ancient biological activity.
The next goal of Perseverance is his helicopter experiment. The rover brought a small chopper from Earth.
The vehicle will spend the next few weeks from its current location to a suitable section of terrain where the 2-kilogram device, called Ingenuity, can be safely placed on the ground. The aircraft is currently hanging under Permanence’s belly.
“We’re still figuring out the possible flight zones,” said Robert Hogg, Perseverance’s deputy mission manager. “We’re taking navigation camera images, stereo images, to be able to analyse the terrain. And also the team’s been looking at orbital images looking at possible flight zones. Long story short, we’re still aiming for getting that done in the spring,” he told reporters.
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