Skip to main content

Perseverance selfie shows it’s been a busy Mars rover of late

The Perseverance Mars rover snapped a selfie recently, showing its tracks wending through the Martian dust and up to a rock named Rochette. This is the area where the rover collected one of its recent Mars samples, drilling into the rock to collect a small amount in its sample tubes.

Eventually, the tubes will be collected by a future rover and brought back to Earth for study. In the image, you can see the two drill holes in the rock where the rover took the samples.

Using its WATSON camera, NASA’s Perseverance Mars rover took this selfie over a rock nicknamed “Rochette.”
Using its WATSON camera, NASA’s Perseverance Mars rover took this selfie over a rock nicknamed “Rochette,” on Sept.10, 2021, the 198th Martian day, or sol, of the mission. Two holes can be seen where the rover used its robotic arm to drill rock core samples. NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS

As well as taking charming selfies, the cameras on Perseverance are a vital part of its science mission. “The imaging cameras are a huge piece of everything,” said Vivian Sun, the co-lead for Perseverance’s first science campaign at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory. “We use a lot of them every single day for science. They’re absolutely mission-critical.”

The cameras include two navigation cameras and nine engineering cameras which help the rover find its way across the Martian landscape by enabling its autonomous driving. These cameras were also responsible for capturing the rover’s first panoramic view of the Martian surface. They give a quick, lower-resolution overview of what the rover is seeing, so more powerful cameras can be trained on targets of interest.

“The navigation camera data is really useful to have those images to do a targeted science follow-up with higher-resolution instruments such as SuperCam and Mastcam-Z,” Sun said.

SuperCam and Mastcam-Z are two of the rover’s instruments which include high-resolution cameras. Mastcam-Z’s cameras capture broad overviews, like panoramas or 3D images plus high-definition video. The SuperCam instrument is used to target specific sites which are further away by zooming in in great detail to study mineralogy.

And to zoom in for super close-up shots, there’s the WATSON (Wide Angle Topographic Sensor for Operations and eNgineering) camera on the end of the rover’s robotic arm which can image rocks in great detail.

Perseverance took this close-up of a rock target nicknamed “Foux” using its WATSON camera on July 11, 2021, the 139th Martian day, r sol, of the mission. The area within the camera is roughly 1.4 by 1 inches (3.5 centimeters by 2.6 centimeters).
Perseverance took this close-up of a rock target nicknamed “Foux” using its WATSON camera. NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS

With these tools, researchers think they have the best chance yet of discovering evidence of ancient microbial life on the planet. “Once we get over closer to the delta, where there should be really good preservation potential for signs of life, we’ve got a really good chance of seeing something if it’s there,” said Luther Beegle, principle investigator for the rover’s SHERLOC instrument.

Editors' Recommendations

Georgina Torbet
Georgina is the Digital Trends space writer, covering human space exploration, planetary science, and cosmology. She…
NASA’s new interactive mosaic shows Mars in amazing detail
A section of NASA's incredibly detailed mosaic of Mars.

NASA has launched a new interactive tool that shows Mars in extraordinary detail and lets you travel between points of interest at the click of a mouse.

The extraordinary Global CTX Mosaic of Mars comprises 110,000 images captured by the Context Camera -- or CTX -- aboard NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO).

Read more
Perseverance rover collects its first sample from Jezero delta
This image shows the rocky outcrop the Perseverance science team calls Berea after the NASA Mars rover extracted a rock core and abraded a circular patch. The image was taken by the rover's Mastcam-Z instrument on March 30, 2023.

Things are heating up on Mars, as the Perseverance rover begins its new science campaign. In its previous science campaign, the NASA rover explored the floor of the Jezero crater, but now it has moved on to investigate an exciting location called the delta. As the site of an ancient river delta, this region is a great location to search for evidence of ancient life and to find rocks carried from far-off locations by the river that was there millions of years ago.

Perseverance collected its first sample of this science campaign last week, on Thursday, March 30. This is the 19th sample of rock and dust that the rover has collected so far, with 10 of those samples carefully left behind in a sample cache on the Martian surface. The latest sample was collected from a rock named "Berea" which is thought to be made up of deposits that were carried by the river.

Read more
NASA’s plucky Mars helicopter eyes another flight record
Mars helicopter

NASA’s plucky Mars helicopter, Ingenuity, is about to embark on its 49th flight on the red planet.

The diminutive drone-like aircraft arrived on Mars with the Perseverance rover in February 2021.

Read more