NASA’s Perseverance rover is celebrating the conclusion of its year-long stay on the Red Planet by learning to run on its rocky surface. The approximately 1,025 kg machine has achieved several milestones, including new distance records, since its landing on the rocky surface a year ago on February 18, 2021. And now, it is trying to gain confidence and speed to take on challenging tasks, which include collecting more rock samples in the coming weeks as it moves towards its new scientific campaign on a new destination far away from Jezero Crater, which contained a lake billions of years ago.
Last year, Perseverance has collected six rock samples so far, served as a base station for the Ingenuity helicopter and tested the first prototype MOXIE oxygen generator on Mars, NASA said. The six-wheel machine is collecting rock samples to send them back to Earth during an upcoming manned mission to the Red Planet. Scientists could then study the samples, looking primarily for signs of ancient life on Mars.
These rock samples will provide insights into the formation of Jezero Crater, said Thomas Zurbuchen, associate administrator for NASA’s Science Mission Directorate in Washington, in an declaration. “Each one is carefully considered for its scientific value.”
Perseverance recently set the record for covering the longest distance (245.76 meters) in a single Martian day, or sun, by any rover on the planet. This milestone was achieved thanks to its autonomous driving function.
But the robot’s stay on the Red Planet was not without its challenges. By transferring rock samples to its storage, Perseverance smothered its systems in December. However, NASA engineers were able to remove the impediment from its belly and get the rover back to normal operation.
Perseverance will now collect two more samples in the coming weeks of the “Ch’ał” rock type (named after the Navajo term for “frog”). If samples of these rocks are returned to Earth, scientists think they can estimate the age of Jezero and the lake that resided there.