The persistent rover can travel 200 meters a day, but scientists need to run safety checks and checks before it takes off further.
On Friday, mission managers said that NASA’s Persephone spacecraft took its first short flight over the surface of the Red Planet, two weeks after the ideal robotic science lab landed on the floor of a massive crater.
The roving probe ventured for the first time from its landing site on Thursday, two weeks after it landed on the red planet to look for signs of past life.
Taking direction from task managers at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) near Los Angeles, the spacecraft darted four meters (13.1 feet) forward, turned about 150 degrees to the left, and then moved backward 2.5 meters (8.2 feet) for the grand total. 6.5 meters (21.3 ft) during the half-hour test inside Jezero Crater, the site of an ancient and long-vanished lakebed and river delta on the surface of Mars.
“It went very well,” said Anis Zarifyan, a mobility test engineer at the Perseverance’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, during a conference call with reporters, describing it as a “big milestone” for the mission.
The round trip, back and forth, only lasted 33 minutes and went so well that the six-wheel rover was back in action on Friday.
Perseverance, able to drive an average of 200 meters per day.
NASA showed a rover photo showing the tread marks of the wheel that was left in the reddish sandy soil of Mars after its first drive.
Another vivid image of the surrounding landscape shows rugged, pink terrain strewn with large, dark boulders in the foreground and a long outcrop of layered rock sediments in the distance – indicating the edge of the river delta.
I’m on the go! I just had my first test drive on Mars, as it covered about 16 feet (5 meters). You look at the beginning of my wheel tracks. Much to do. pic.twitter.com/7tFIwWFfJ4
– NASA’s Perseverance on Mars (@ NASAPersevere) March 5, 2021
So far, the Tenacity and its hardware, including the main robot arm, appear to be operating flawlessly, according to Robert Hogg, deputy mission director.
But JPL engineers still have additional checks of the equipment to operate it on many of the rover tools before they are ready to send the robot on a more ambitious journey as part of its primary mission to search for traces of fossil microbial life.
The team still has to do post-landing tests of the advanced rover system to dig and collect rock samples for return to Earth on future Mars missions.
Once the system check is complete on Perseverance, the rover will head to an ancient river delta to collect rocks for return to Earth a decade from now.
Scientists are debating whether to take the smoother route to reach the nearby delta or perhaps a more stringent approach with interesting remnants from that watery time three to four billion years ago.