The Perseverance rover travels its first meters on the surface of Mars

An image of Mars sent from Perseverance.

An image of Mars sent from Perseverance.

The robotic vehicle Perseverance made its first journey over the surface of Mars by traveling 6.5 meters, a displacement that constitutes the first milestone for this mission, NASA scientists reported this Friday.

Two weeks after its arrival on the red planet, which occurred on February 18, the “rover” took its “first steps” this Thursday afternoon by moving just over four meters forward, then turning to the left about 150 degrees and finally go back about 2.5 meters.

“Our first trip went incredibly well,” said Anais Zarifian, an engineer at NASA’s Propulsion Laboratory (JPL), who is part of the team responsible for the Perseverance mobility tests. “We are now confident that our propulsion system is ready to go, capable of taking us where science takes us for the next two years,” he added.

The members of the “rover” mission, whose maximum speed is 0.01 miles per hour (16 meters per hour), still faster than its predecessor Curiosity, detailed that once Perseverance fully begins its scientific investigations it will regular trips of about 200 meters.

At the press conference, team members showed images in which the tracks of the vehicle are observed on the rocky surface of Mars.

Katie Stack Morgan, deputy scientist on the mission, announced today that the location in Jezero Crater where Perseverance arrived has been named Octavia E. Butler, in honor of the California-born science fiction writer of the same name.

As explained today, in recent days, the vehicle carried out program updates and various tests, including the deployment of two wind sensors from the Mars Environmental Dynamics Analyzer (MEDA) instrument, developed by the Spanish Astrobiology Center ( INTA-CSIC).

Also, this week the mission scientists deployed for the first time the 2 meter long robotic arm of the “rover”, and during two hours they flexed each one of its five joints.

Deputy Mission Director Robert Hogg said they are conducting analysis to determine the best site to place the Ingenuity Mars helicopter. He added that they plan to complete the first tests and measurements necessary before the summer before the helicopter can make its first flight in the Martian air.

In its first two weeks on the red planet, Perseverance has already sent about 7,000 images captured through the “most advanced camera suite ever to travel to Mars,” as Morgan put it.

The Perseverance, which left Earth in July 2020, carries a device that will transform carbon dioxide, which accounts for 96% of the Martian atmosphere, into oxygen, for the respiration of astronauts on future manned voyages and as a rocket propellant to return to Earth.

The robot is tasked with searching for ancient life, taking samples, studying the geology and climate of the red planet, and preparing the way for a manned journey.


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