NASA’s Perseverance rover has kicked off its extremely anticipated science marketing campaign with a Red Planet highway journey.
The car-sized Perseverance landed inside Mars’ 28-mile-wide (45 kilometers) Jezero Crater on Feb. 18. The six-wheeled robotic’s first few months on the Red Planet had been devoted primarily to performing well being and instrument checkouts and documenting the pioneering flights of NASA’s Ingenuity helicopter, which traveled to Mars on Perseverance’s stomach.
But Perseverance and its methods are actually just about up to the mark, and Ingenuity has wrapped up its technology-demonstrating flight marketing campaign and moved on to an prolonged mission that requires much less assist and supervision. So the rover has begun to sink its tooth into its personal science mission, which focuses on trying to find indicators of historic Mars life and gathering samples for future return to Earth.
That shift started on June 1, when Perseverance rolled away from its landing zone.
“We are putting the rover’s commissioning phase as well as the landing site in our rearview mirror and hitting the road,” Jennifer Trosper, the brand new Perseverance mission supervisor at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in Southern California, said in a statement. (Trosper, beforehand deputy mission supervisor for Perseverance, took the brand new job this week after former mission mission supervisor Matt Wallace departed to grow to be JPL’s deputy director for planetary science.)
“Over the next several months, Perseverance will be exploring a 1.5-square-mile [4-square-kilometer] patch of crater floor,” Trosper mentioned. “It is from this location that the primary samples from one other planet can be collected for return to Earth by a future mission.”
Perseverance will discover two distinct geological items inside that patch — “Crater Floor Fractured Rough,” which accommodates a variety of historic, uncovered bedrock, and “Séítah,” which has bedrock as properly but additionally boasts ridges and sand dunes, amongst different options. (Séítah means “amidst the sand” in the Navajo language, NASA officers mentioned.)
“To do justice to both units in the time allotted, the team came up with the Martian version of an old auto club-style map,” astrobiologist Kevin Hand, co-leader of this science marketing campaign together with fellow JPL scientist Vivian Sun, mentioned in the identical assertion. “We have our route planned, complete with optional turnoffs and labeled areas of interest and potential obstructions in our path.”
If all goes in keeping with plan, Perseverance will gather and retailer one or two samples from every of 4 areas inside the two items — spots that the group determines greatest seize the historical past and evolution of Jezero, which hosted a giant lake and a river delta way back.
“Starting with the Crater Floor Fractured Rough and Séítah geologic units allows us to start our exploration of Jezero at the very beginning,” Hand mentioned. “This area was under at least 100 meters [328 feet] of water 3.8 billion years ago. We don’t know what stories the rocks and layered outcrops will tell us, but we’re excited to get started.”
After wrapping up at Crater Floor Fractured Rough and Séítah, Perseverance will head again to its touchdown website, which the mission group named after famed sci-fi writer Octavia E. Butler. The nuclear-powered rover will then roll north and west towards the positioning of its second science marketing campaign — Jezero’s delta.
Here on Earth, deltas are good at preserving natural compounds and indicators of life, so the mission group is eager to see what Jezero’s historic river deposits maintain.
Perseverance’s mission is scheduled to final not less than one Mars yr, which is about 687 Earth days. But the robotic might preserve roving for for much longer, if precedent is any information. Perseverance is modeled closely after NASA’s Curiosity rover, which continues to discover Mars’ Gale Crater in the present day, practically 9 years after touching down in August 2012.
Mike Wall is the writer of “Out There” (Grand Central Publishing, 2018; illustrated by Karl Tate), a e book concerning the seek for alien life. Follow him on Twitter @michaeldwall. Follow us on Twitter @Spacedotcom or Facebook.