Perseverance began moving away from its Octavia E. Butler landing site on June 1. The Mars rover has left the scenic lookout where it has captured footage and video of Ingenuity helicopter flights and heads to another that will reveal some of Jezero Crater’s oldest geological features.
Along the way, the rover will continue to flex and prepare to explore Jezero Crater by testing and adjusting its automatic navigation and sampling systems. The samples collected by Perseverance, which could contain microfossils, will be returned to Earth in the 2030s.
“We put the commissioning phase of the rover and the landing site in our rearview mirror and hit the road,” said Jennifer Trosper, Perseverance project manager at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif., In a statement.
“Over the next few months, Perseverance will explore a 1.5 square mile (4 square kilometer) crater terrain. It is from this location that the first samples from another planet will be collected for return to Earth by a future mission, ”Trosper said.
Perseverance officially begins its main scientific mission to study the Jezero Crater and piece together the geological and climatic history of the region, as well as collect rock and soil samples.
The scenic route
“To do justice to both units in the allotted time, the team came up with the Martian version of an old automobile club-style map,” Kevin Hand, astrobiologist at JPL, said in a statement. “We have planned our route, with optional turns and labeled areas of interest and potential obstacles in our way.”
Hand is co-responsible for this scientific campaign with Vivian Sun, planetary scientist and systems engineer from JPL.
Séítah, which is shaped like a mitten, is not without obstacles, the main one being the sand dunes. Perseverance will use a dividing line between the site and the rough fractured crater floor to navigate this area. Occasionally, the rover may venture into Séítah if specific areas of interest appear.
“Starting with the Crater Floor Fractured Rough and Seitah geologic units allows us to start our exploration of Jezero early on,” Hand said. “This area was under at least 100 meters (328 feet) of water 3.8 billion years ago. We don’t know what stories the rocks and layered outcrops will tell us, but we’re excited to begin.”
The science team will ask the rover to collect one or two samples from this area and determine four areas of interest that help tell the story of Mars. This science campaign will end once Perseverance returns to its landing site, having traveled between 1.6 and 3.1 miles (2.6 and 5 kilometers) and filling up to eight of the 43 tubes. ‘samples transported by the rover.
This will be followed by a second scientific campaign in which the rover will travel northwest to the old delta of the river that flowed into the crater.
This unique intersection may contain traces of carbonates or minerals which may preserve signs of ancient life.
And the most exciting part? Perseverance has only just begun.