On March 4, 2021, NASA’s Perseverance rover covered 6.5 m (21.3 feet) across the Martian landscape.
This image was captured while Perseverance drove on Mars for the first time on March 4, 2021. One of Perseverance’s Hazard Avoidance Cameras (Hazcams) captured this image as the rover completed a short traverse and turn from its landing site in Jezero Crater. Image credit: NASA / JPL-Caltech.
Perseverance’s first drive lasted about 33 minutes. It propelled the rover forward 4 m (13 feet), where it then turned in place 150 degrees to the left and backed up 2.5 m (8 feet) into its new temporary parking space.
“When it comes to wheeled vehicles on other planets, there are few first-time events that measure up in significance to that of the first drive,” said Perseverance rover mobility test bed engineer Dr. Anais Zarifian, a researcher at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory.
“This was our first chance to ‘kick the tires’ and take Perseverance out for a spin. The rover’s six-wheel drive responded superbly.”
“We are now confident our drive system is good to go, capable of taking us wherever the science leads us over the next two years.”
The rover’s mobility system is not the only thing getting a test drive during this period of initial checkouts.
On February 26, the Perseverance team completed a software update, replacing the computer program that helped land the rover with one they will rely on to investigate the planet.
More recently, the researchers checked out Perseverance’s Radar Imager for Mars’ Subsurface Experiment (RIMFAX) and Mars Oxygen In-Situ Resource Utilization Experiment (MOXIE) instruments, and deployed the Mars Environmental Dynamics Analyzer (MEDA) instrument’s two wind sensors, which extend out from the rover’s mast.
Another significant milestone occurred on March 2, when engineers unstowed the rover’s 2-m- (7-foot) long robotic arm for the first time, flexing each of its five joints over the course of two hours.
Upcoming events and evaluations include more detailed testing and calibration of science instruments, sending Perseverance on longer drives, and jettisoning covers that shield both the adaptive caching assembly and the Ingenuity Mars helicopter during landing.
The experimental flight test program for Ingenuity will also take place during the rover’s commissioning.
Through it all, the rover is sending down images from the most advanced suite of cameras ever to travel to Mars. The mission’s cameras have already sent over 8,000 images.
With Perseverance departing from its touchdown site, the scientists have memorialized the spot, informally naming it for the late science fiction author Octavia E. Butler.
“I can think of no better person to mark this historic landing site than Octavia E. Butler, who not only grew up next door to JPL in Pasadena, but she also inspired millions with her visions of a science-based future,” said dr. Thomas Zurbuchen, NASA associate administrator for science.
“Her guiding principle, ‘When using science, do so accurately,’ is what the science team at NASA is all about.”
“Her work continues to inspire today’s scientists and engineers across the globe — all in the name of a bolder, more equitable future for all.”
This article is based on text provided by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration.