Skip to main content

Perseverance rover roves across Mars for the first time

NASA’s Perseverance rover landed on Mars just over two weeks ago, and now it has completed its first series of tests. Everything looks healthy and soon it will be able to begin its scientific work, searching for evidence of ancient life.

“Perseverance has been doing an exceptional job during her first two weeks on the red planet,” said Robert Hogg, Perseverance Deputy Mission Manager in a press conference.

The rover took its first drive this week, traveling 21.3 feet (6.5 meters) on Thursday, March 4. This first drive was a test to ensure that the rover could move as planned, in preparation for its planned daily drives of around 656 feet (200 meters) or more.

Over 33 minutes, the rover trundled over the surface, turned in place, and back up. One of the engineers, Anais Zarifian, called it the team’s first chance to “kick the tires” and make sure the drive system was ready.

“The rover’s six-wheel-drive responded superbly,” she said. “We are now confident our drive system is good to go, capable of taking us wherever the science leads us over the next two years.”

This image was taken during the first drive of NASA’s Perseverance rover on Mars on March 4, 2021. Perseverance landed on Feb. 18, 2021, and the team has been spending the weeks since landing checking out the rover to prepare for surface operations. This image was taken by the rover’s Navigation Cameras.
This image was taken during the first drive of NASA’s Perseverance rover on Mars on March 4, 2021. Perseverance landed on Feb. 18, 2021, and the team has been spending the weeks since landing checking out the rover to prepare for surface operations. This image was taken by the rover’s Navigation Cameras. NASA/JPL-Caltech

Following the drive, the rover snapped an image of its tracks in the regolith using its navigation cameras, shown above. “You can see our first tracks on Mars,” Hogg said. “This was just so amazing to see… We’re really happy about this.”

The rover also performed a checkout of its robotic arm which holds several of the rover’s instruments, including several cameras and the SHERLOC instrument. The arm was deployed and performed what Hogg referred to as a “test wiggle” to make sure it worked as expected.

The first science sensors have been deployed as well, like the wind sensors of the MEDA instrument which will be investigating the Martian weather.

Finally, the rover’s software was also updated to enable further capabilities. “When we did this update we had to be very careful not to have any major problems,” Hogg joked, “because there’s no helpline to call.”

Naming the landing site

In addition to the news about the rover, the team also announced they have named the site where the rover landed after renowned science fiction author Octavia E. Butler.

The name “Octavia E. Butler Landing” was chosen in commemoration of Butler’s enduring influence on planetary science and the way we think about space exploration, particularly in terms of race, gender, and equality.

“Butler’s protagonists embody determination and inventiveness, making her a perfect fit for the Perseverance rover mission and its theme of overcoming challenges,” said Kathryn Stack Morgan, deputy project scientist for Perseverance. “Butler inspired and influenced the planetary science community and many beyond, including those typically underrepresented in STEM fields.”

What’s next for the rover

With the first tests complete, now the team will move onto more detailed testing and calibration of the rover’s science instruments. They also plan to send the rover on a longer drive and to jettison the covers of part of the sample caching system and the Ingenuity helicopter.

The first test flight of the Ingenuity helicopter is also expected soon, which will be the first time an aircraft has flown on another planet.

Editors' Recommendations

Georgina Torbet
Georgina is the Digital Trends space writer, covering human space exploration, planetary science, and cosmology. She…
How Perseverance is moving faster than any previous Mars rover
The back of the Perseverance rover and its wheel tracks.

NASA's Perseverance rover is moving across the surface of Mars faster than any rover before. In February the rover broke a 17-year-old record for the longest drive by a rover in a single Martian day, but now it is continuing to speed along toward its new target, the Jezero crater delta.

"Its actual speed is just under a tenth of a mile per hour, but it’s faster than its predecessors," wrote Roger Wiens of Los Alamos National Laboratory, principal investigator for Perseverance's SuperCam instrument and co-investigator to its SHERLOC instrument, in a recent blog post about the rover's progress. "It is making comparatively rapid progress by devoting several hours per day to driving on very smooth terrain."

Read more
What Perseverance rover recordings tell us about sound on Mars
The two microphones of the Perseverance Mars Rover are labeled.

The Perseverance rover captured the world's imagination when it recorded sounds from the surface of Mars shortly after its arrival on the red planet in 2021. It recorded sounds of the Martian wind, as well as the noises it made itself, and it even managed to capture the sounds of the Ingenuity helicopter in action. Now, scientists have analyzed these recordings to learn about how sound propagates on Mars, and found that the speed of sound isn't constant there -- it depends on the sound's pitch.

NASA’s Perseverance Rover Captures Puff, Whir, Zap Sounds from Mars

Read more
Perseverance rover heading for the Jezero delta at top speed
NASA's Perseverance Mars rover looks back at its wheel tracks on March 17, 2022, the 381th Martian day, or sol, of the mission.

NASA's Perseverance rover is taking a road trip across Mars, heading for a new and exciting location. The aim is for the rover to travel faster than previous rovers, making use of its self-driving system. This should enable the rover to cover the three miles to the Jezero Crater delta, which is the site of an ancient river delta which is a great site to look for evidence of ancient life, at top speed.

Perseverance’s Route to the Delta

Read more