Finally, the day has arrived! NASA’s Perseverance Mars rover has kicked off its main mission on the Martian soil – hunting for signs of past microbial life in the Jazero crater. “Until recently, the rover has been undergoing systems tests, or commissioning, and supporting the Ingenuity Mars Helicopter’s month of flight tests,” NASA said in a statement.
Besides, the rover’s helicopter buddy Ingenuity is doing fine on its own and recently finished its seventh flight on Mars. Perseverance, on the other hand, has been put through an extensive warm-up phase where many of its science instruments were tested. The rover has already captured thousands of images and recorded audio on the Red Planet.
“We are putting the rover’s commissioning phase as well as the landing site in our rearview mirror and hitting the road,” said Jennifer Trosper, NASA JPL Perseverance project manager.
Searching for past life
The rover will now be examining a chunk of the crater floor where it will search for rocks that are worth studying. It will also collect soil samples to pack into tubes and caches that will be collected during a later mission.
The rover will navigate the rocky terrain and work around potentially hazardous sand dunes. The crater is said to be lakebed billions of years ago. The first science experiment will finish with Perseverance’s returning to its landing site.
“At that point, Perseverance will have traveled between 1.6 and 3.1 miles (2.5 and 5 kilometers) and up to eight of Perseverance’s 43 sample tubes could be filled with Mars rock and regolith (broken rock and dust),” NASA said.
Perseverance making history
The data gathered by the rover will give us a glimpse into the story of regions of Mars, unraveling mysteries of the past life of the planet and geologic composition. NASA hopes to find out whether the crater could have supported microbial life.
Recently, the Perseverance rover also added another feather to its hat. The rover completed 100 Sols or Martian days on the Red Planet. The car-sized rover and its small helicopter partner Ingenuity landed on Mars’ Jezero Crater on February 18.