Scientists from NASA conducted tests during which the Perseverance device drove over the surface of Mars for the first time. Engineers will conduct several more of these tests before sending the rover out in search of life.
NASA mission chiefs said the Perseverance rover made a short trip two weeks after landing. A six-wheeled probe the size of a car covered 6.5 meters during a half-hour test in Jezero Crater, an ancient lake bed and river delta.
After receiving guidance from mission leaders at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL), the rover drove 4 meters forward, turned about 150 degrees to the left, and then drove another 2.5 meters in the opposite direction.
“He did incredibly well,” said Anais Zarifyan, JPL Mobility Test Engineer. NASA has released a photograph taken by the rover showing the tracks of its wheels.
Researchers are planning another short-distance test drive next week. Perseverance is capable of walking approximately 200 meters per day. However, engineers have yet to test his instruments before sending them in search of traces of fossilized microbial life.
So far, Perseverance and its hardware, including the main robot arm, have been working flawlessly, said Robert Hogg, deputy mission manager. The team also plans to conduct post-landing tests of the rover’s sophisticated systems to drill and collect rock samples for return to Earth.