Following two weeks of self-administered health checks on the surface of Mars, NASA’s Perseverance rover is close to beginning its highly anticipated hunt for signs of past life on the red planet.
Two posts on the rover’s official Twitter account on Thursday, March 4, showed the high-tech mobile laboratory pulling a few moves as part of crucial tests to ensure everything’s in good working order following the vehicle’s six-and-a-half-month journey from Earth.
“This week I’ve been doing lots of health checkouts, getting ready to get to work,” the rover tweeted alongside a short clip showing it moving around for the first time in more than half a year. “I’ve checked many tasks off my list, including instrument tests, imaging, and getting my arm moving. Warming up for a marathon of science.”
This week I’ve been doing lots of health checkouts, getting ready to get to work. I’ve checked many tasks off my list, including instrument tests, imaging, and getting my arm moving. Warming up for a marathon of science. pic.twitter.com/A0aqhWVo5T
— NASA's Perseverance Mars Rover (@NASAPersevere) March 3, 2021
A little while later, another clip appeared showing one of the rover’s six wheels turning back and forth, with the message, “A quick test of my steering, and things are looking good as I get ready to roll. My team and I are keen to get moving. One step at a time.”
A quick test of my steering, and things are looking good as I get ready to roll. My team and I are keen to get moving. One step at a time. pic.twitter.com/XSYfT158AQ
— NASA's Perseverance Mars Rover (@NASAPersevere) March 5, 2021
With most of the checks now complete — and no reports of any anomalies from NASA’s California-based Jet Propulsion Laboratory, which is overseeing the mission — Perseverance could be just days away from making its first tentative drive across the surface of Jezero Crater where the rover touched down in dramatic fashion on February 18, 2021.
One of the main goals of the mission is to search the planet for signs of past life. Jezero Crater was once filled with water and so is thought to offer an excellent chance of making such a discovery.
As the first rover equipped with a sample-gathering system, Perseverance will also package interesting rock and soil samples for transportation to Earth by a future mission. This will allow scientists to examine the material with more powerful instruments to verify any discoveries that the rover makes during its two-year mission.
Perseverance is also carrying with it a small helicopter called Ingenuity that in a few months’ time should become the first device to take flight on another planet.
There’s a lot to look forward to with NASA’s latest Mars mission, so be sure to check back for regular updates.
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