It’s been one year since NASA’s Perseverance rover made its remarkable landing on Mars. Twelve months on, NASA has shared a roundup of all the achievements the rover has made in its quest to understand the Jezero crater, where it landed, and in its quest to search for evidence of ancient life.
One of the rover’s major achievements was collecting samples of Mars rock, which proved tricky at first due to the rock being more crumbly than expected. However, despite the challenges the rover has managed to collect six samples so far which are sealed up in tubes and will be left on the planet’s surface for a future mission to collect and eventually bring back to Earth for study.
“The samples Perseverance has been collecting will provide a key chronology for the formation of Jezero Crater,” said Thomas Zurbuchen, associate administrator of NASA’s Science Mission Directorate in Washington, in a statement. “Each one is carefully considered for its scientific value.”
Another major milestone was achieved recently when Perseverance broke the record for the longest drive by a Mars rover in a single day. That record had stood for 17 years, set by the rover Opportunity, and Perseverance was able to best it by traveling 246 meters in a single Mars sol. The rover was helped in this by its AutoNav navigation software which uses maps of the Martian surface to plan out efficient driving routes.
The next challenge for the rover will be to collect two further rock samples from a set of dark rubbly rocks named “Ch’ał.” These could help to answer major open questions about the age of the Jezero crater, as current estimates are based on impact craters and scientists want a more accurate way to date the region.
“Right now, we take what we know about the age of impact craters on the Moon and extrapolate that to Mars,” said Katie Stack Morgan, Perseverance’s deputy project scientist at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Southern California, in a statement. “Bringing back a sample from this heavily cratered surface in Jezero could provide a tie-point to calibrate the Mars crater dating system independently, instead of relying solely on the lunar one.”
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