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Perseverance Mars rover’s first-drive review

Monitoring Desk

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.

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.

Courtesy: The Guardian