Perseverance Mars rover: Nasa releases first-drive review

Nasa’s Mars rover Perseverance has taken a short drive two weeks after touching down, mission managers have said.

The six-wheeled, car-sized probe went 6.5 metres (21.3 feet) during a half-hour test within Jezero crater, an ancient lake bed and river delta.

Taking directions from mission managers at Nasa’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) near Los Angeles, the rover rolled 4 metres (13.1 feet) forward, turned about 150 degrees to its left and then drove backward another 2.5 metres (8.2 feet).

“It went incredibly well,” said Anais Zarifian, a JPL mobility test engineer, calling it a “huge milestone”.

Nasa displayed a photo from the rover showing its own wheel marks.

A view of the tracks left by Perseverance on its first drive.
A view of the tracks left by Perseverance on its first drive. Photograph: AP

Another vivid image of the surrounding landscape shows a rugged, ruddy terrain littered with large, dark boulders in the foreground and a tall outcropping of rocky, layered deposits in the distance – marking the edge of the river delta.

Some additional short-distance test driving was planned for Friday. Perseverance is capable of about 200 metres of driving a day.

Engineers still have to run checks on its many instruments before sending it on its way to search for traces of fossilised microbial life.

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Footage of Perseverance rover landing on Mars released by Nasa – video
Footage of Perseverance rover landing on Mars released by Nasa – video

So far Perseverance and its hardware, including its main robot arm, appeared to be operating flawlessly, said Robert Hogg, deputy mission manager. The team was yet to conduct post-landing tests of the rover’s sophisticated systems to drill and collect rock samples for return to Earth via future Mars missions.

Nasa has named the landing site the Octavia E Butler Landing in honour of the award-winning American science-fiction writer. Butler, from Pasadena, California, died in 2006 at age 58.

The Guardian

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