Mars rover Perseverance first spins on the surface of the red planet

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© Reuters. Part of a panorama made up of individual images shows the Martian landscape

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Posted by Steve Gorman

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) – NASA’s Mars rover Perseverance has made its first short ride on the surface of the red planet, two weeks after the robotic science lab was beautifully set up on the floor of a massive crater, mission managers said on Friday.

The six-wheeled astrobiological probe the size of a car put a total of 6.5 meters on its odometer Mars on Thursday during a half-hour test round in the Jezero crater, where there was an old, long-lost lake bed and a river delta.

Taking instructions from mission managers at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (NYSE 🙂 (JPL) near Los Angeles, the rover rolled forward 4 meters, turned left about 150 degrees, and then reversed an additional 2.5 meters. .

“It went incredibly well,” JPL Persistence Mobility Test Engineer Anais Zarifian said during a conference call briefing with reporters, calling it a “major milestone” for the mission.

NASA showed a photo taken by the rover with the wheel tracks that remained on the reddish, sandy Martian soil after its first trip.

Another vivid image of the surrounding landscape shows rough, reddish terrain with large, dark boulders in the foreground and a high ledge in the distance marking the edge of the river delta.

Some additional short-haul test drives are planned for Friday. Perseverance can drive an average of 200 meters per day.

However, JPL engineers have yet to perform additional equipment checks on the rover’s many instruments before they are ready to send the robot on a more ambitious journey as part of its primary task of searching for traces of fossilized microbial life.

So far, Perseverance and its hardware, including the robot’s main arm, appear to be working just fine, said Robert Hogg, assistant mission manager. The team has yet to conduct post-landing tests of the rover’s sophisticated system to drill and collect rock samples for return to Earth on future Mars missions.

NASA announced that it has named the location of the Perseverance touchdown on February 18 as “Octavia E. Butler Landing” in honor of the award-winning American science fiction writer. Butler, a native of Pasadena, California, died in 2006 at the age of 58.

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