Mission managers said Friday that NASA’s Mars rover Perseverance made its first short flight on the surface of the red planet two weeks after the Robot Science Laboratory scored a perfect touchdown on the ground of a huge crater.

This six-wheeled car-sized astrobiology probe placed a total of 6.5 meters (21.3 feet) on the odometer during a half-hour test spin on Jezero Crater on Thursday. Mars.

Under the guidance of the mission leader of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) near Los Angeles, the rover moved 4 meters (13.1 feet) forward, turned about 150 degrees to the left, and then drove back 2.5. Meters (8.2 feet).

Persistent JPL mobility test engineer Anais Zarifian said in a conference call briefing with reporters: “It’s going very well.” This is a “great milestone” for the mission.

The National Aeronautics and Space Administration showed a photo taken by the rover, which showed the traces of the tires on the red sandy Martian soil after the first drive.

Another vivid image of the surrounding landscape shows the uneven terrain, with huge dark boulders scattered everywhere, and towering outcrops of rocky layered sediments in the distance marking the edge of the delta.

Some other short-distance test drives are planned on Friday. Perseverance can travel an average of 200 meters per day.

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However, JPL engineers still need to perform additional equipment inspections on many of the rover’s instruments to prepare the robot for a more ambitious journey, which is part of its main task of finding traces of fossil microbial life.

Robert Hogg, deputy manager of mission execution, said that up to now, Perseverance and its hardware, including its main robotic arm, seem to function normally. The team has not yet tested the complex system of the rover to drill and collect rock samples to return to Earth through future Mars missions.

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

Thomson Reuters 2021 ©


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