The Perseverance rover has traveled its first meters on Mars

NASA’s Perseverance rover successfully spun its wheels on Mars for the first time since it landed two weeks ago, moving a few meters, the US space agency said on Friday.

During this first trip made Thursday afternoon, and intended to check the correct operation of the system, the vehicle, equipped with six wheels, advanced 4 meters, then made a rotation on itself to the left, before turning perform a rear maneuver for about 2.5 meters.

By backing up, Perseverance was able to take a photo of its own wheel tracks on Martian soil, published by NASA.

In total, the rover, which is the size of a large SUV, covered six and a half meters in 33 minutes.

“I don’t think I’ve ever been so happy to see wheel marks,” Anais Zarifian, engineer in charge of the rover’s mobility at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, where he has worked at a press conference, told a press conference. been built.

“Our first trip went incredibly well, and it’s a huge milestone for the mission,” she said.

Another slightly longer trip is planned this Friday, and possibly Saturday as well, if all goes well.

The vehicle will be able to travel 200 meters per Martian day (days very slightly longer than on Earth). It travels five times faster than Curiosity, the other NASA rover still operating on Mars.

– Premier tir de SuperCam –

Perseverance landed on February 18 in Jezero Crater, which scientists believe was home to a deep lake 3.5 billion years ago.

The goal of the mission is to collect rock samples that will be brought back to Earth by a subsequent mission, in order to look for traces of ancient life on the red planet.

Scientists are now considering two journeys for Perseverance to join the delta formed by the flow of an old river in the lake, and which is of particular interest to researchers because sediments could have been deposited there in large amount.

Before that, the Ingenuity helicopter, which is to become the first motorized craft to fly to another planet, must be released from under the rover, where it still sits for the moment.

NASA teams are currently looking for the best place to make this historic flight, “before the end of spring,” Robert Hogg, deputy chief of the mission, promised Friday.

The rover has already sent more than 7,000 images, captured by its many cameras, to Earth.

On one of them, we can see a light brown colored rock on which was used for the first time the scientific instrument SuperCam, an ultra sophisticated camera the size of a shoebox, designed by the French. . It is equipped with a laser that can shoot a rock up to 7 meters away in order to be able to analyze its composition.

The results will be presented by NASA next week.

The space agency also announced that it named the Perseverance landing site after African-American sci-fi author Octavia E. Butler, who was born in Pasadena, California, where the Jet Propulsion Laboratory is located.

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