A month ago, Perseverance made a memorable landing on the surface of Mars. Since then, the teams have been working to check the rover’s instruments. We also have several audio recordings available. Researchers are now preparing for his next big mission step: to fly Ingenuity.
A month ago, on February 18, 2021, the American rover Perseverance gently touched down in the Jezero crater. During those first weeks on Mars, the mission team checked the vehicle’s seven scientific instruments and its various subsystems, confirming that everything was going as planned.
“So far everything has gone very well“Ken Farley of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) said on Tuesday. “We did not experience any major technical problems“.
Hear Perseverance on the move
One of the first technical feats of this mission was to capture the sounds of the rover moving around the planet. This is a great first!
The audio was recorded during a 27.3 meter route operated on March 7. We then hear the many squeaks and clicks of the six-wheeled robot as it moves on Martian soil.
“Many people, when they see the pictures, do not realize that the wheels are made of metal.“Says Vandi Verma, senior engineer and rover driver at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory. “When you drive with these wheels over rocks it is actually very noisy“.
A historic first flight
The first big step will be to test the Ingenuity rotorcraft. Still nestled in the belly of the rover, it will be released in a few weeks. The mission team has just announced that it has found a suitable “airfield”.
On D-Day, the small 1.8 kg helicopter will activate its blades at nearly 2,900 revolutions per minute in an attempt to rise to a height of three meters for about thirty seconds. If successful, it will be the first flight ever attempted on another planet.
During this time, Perseverance will stand at a reasonable safety distance and attempt to document this historic flight with his Mastcam-Z. “We plan to use our video capability and telephoto capabilityArizona State University researcher Jim Bell said. “It will be very exciting and we are looking forward to these historic films“.
The rover will also be able to record audio from Ingenuity’s flight thanks to its two on-board microphones.
In the meantime, researchers have already charged the rotorcraft’s six lithium-ion batteries to around 30% of their capacity a few days ago in an attempt to “keep it warm”. JPL plans to repeat these charging sessions every week while awaiting its deployment to the Martian surface.
Serious things will start soon for Perseverance
Once this flight is over, Perseverance will dive seriously into its scientific work to search for traces of past life in Jezero Crater. As a reminder, between three and four billion years ago, this 45 km wide formation housed a large lake into which a river flowed.
The mission team has already plotted an attempted crossing leading the rover through the former delta of this crater where fossil remains may have been preserved.
The current plan also includes caching samples. They will then be set aside to be brought back to Earth in the early 2030s as part of a joint mission between NASA and the European Space Agency (ESA).
In the meantime, the JPL team has already downloaded more than 10,000 photos taken by the rover that you can ride here. Treat yourself !