Perseverance, a NASA rover on Mars, has set a new record for the longest distance traveled by a rover on another planet. The rover moved about 320 meters on February 14, just a few days before its one-year anniversary (1,050 feet). Furthermore, it completed the journey using AutoNav, a type of self-driving software that allows the rover to forge its own path while avoiding impediments such as rocks and stones. The long distance traveled was necessary in order to collect more rock samples from Jezero Crater’s intriguing formations.
The rover is now carrying six rock samples that will be returned to Earth one day. It will collect two more in the coming weeks. The samples will be taken from the “Ch’a” rock type, which is named after the Navajo word “frog.” These black, rubbly boulders can be found all across the crater.
After a memorable year that saw the flights of Ingenuity and the testing of MOXIE, the first oxygen generator on Mars, the rover is nearing the end of its maiden science mission. Perseverance is pushing forward, with the goal of reaching a spectacular location by the summer: the ruins of an old fan-shaped delta produced by a river that fed the lake inside Jezero crater. Deltas gather sediment over time, and scientists hope to find indications of probable biosignatures – proof of life – in the rocks from a time when Mars was more water-rich, as opposed to the barren, freezing desert it is now.
Weather warnings are a reluctantly accepted feature of life, especially when they occur unexpectedly. Many people can relate to trying to travel and receiving an “inclement weather” warning with a heavy heart. NASA has now forced to send a flight delay warning owing to inclement weather on another planet, in a world- and off-word-first.
Not only for launching missions, but also to preserve its rovers and landers presently exploring Mars, NASA must keep a constant check on the weather. NASA will not risk losing this precious asset because ingenuity has repeatedly proved that it is the little helicopter that could, extending way beyond its 30-day mission. Due to a regional dust storm on Mars, Ingenuity’s 19th trip, scheduled for January 5, has been postponed and will now take place at a later date, according to the agency.