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Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

Perseverance performes her first test drive on Mars

About two weeks after her landing in the Jezero crater, Perseverance, NASA’s newest rover, has now performed her first test drive through the ancient lake, the official Twitter account of the probe announced earlier today.

Perseverance has performed her first test drive. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech.
Perseverance has performed her first test drive. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech.

Perseverance, who launched on July 30, 2020 atop a United Launch Alliance Atlas V 541 rocket from Cape Canaveral, successfully touched down in the Jezero crater, an ancient lake on Mars, on February 18, 2021.

Launch of Perseverance atop an Atlas V rocket from Space Launch Complex 41 at the Cape Canaveral SFS. Credit: NASA/Tony Gray and Tim Powers.
Launch of Perseverance atop an Atlas V rocket from Space Launch Complex 41 at the Cape Canaveral SFS. Credit: NASA/Tony Gray and Tim Powers.

The 1,025 kg heavy probe, who looks similar to rover Curiosity, is the fifth rover sent to the red planet by NASA. Perseverance or Percy for short, is the largest and heaviest rover ever landen on Mars and will search for signs of ancient microbial life. Therefore the vehicle is equipped with multiple scientific instruments such as RIMFAX, a ground-penetrating radar to provide informations about the geological structure of the underground, or PIXL, a spectrometer to determine the composition of the planet’s surface material. Perseverance also carries two technology demonstrators called MOXIE and Ingenuity. MOXIE or In-Situ Resource Utilization Experiment is an experiment housed inside the rover. MOXIE will investigate if the production of oxygen out of the Martian atmosphere is feasible. If the experiment turns out to be a success, the technology could be used in the future to produce oxygen for astronauts to breath and for rockets as propellant.

MOXIE photographed during testing at a lab of NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratoy. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech.
MOXIE photographed during testing at a lab of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratoy. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech.

The second technology demonstrator, Ingenuity, is a small autonomous rotorcraft which will attempt the first powered flight in the planet’s thin atmosphere. This technology might also be advantageos to future colonists, who could use rotorcrafts to scout the surrounding regions.

Artist rendering of Ingenuity on Mars. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech.
Artist rendering of Ingenuity on Mars. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech.

Another major objective of Perseverance is to collect rock samples and to store them in small sample tubes which the rover will place on the Martian surface. In a few years, two missions, consiting of a lander with a rover and an orbiter will launch towards Mars. After the landing of the lander, the small rover will drive around Jezero crater to collect the samples and bring them back to the lander where they will be loaded into a rocket. This rocket will then launch into the Martian orbit where the orbiter awaits the samples. After beeing captured by the orbiter, the rock samples will be flown back to Earth for more detailed analysis. The arrival of the space probe at Earth is scheduled for the beginning of the 2030s.

One of the rover's sampling tubes. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech.
One of the rover’s sampling tubes. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech.

Perseverance’s primary mission will last for at least one Martian year (687 Earth days). If the vehicle survives her first year, the operational phase can be extended.


Sources

https://mars.nasa.gov/mars2020/

https://twitter.com/NASAPersevere/status/1367936250271858689

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