The US space agency said on Friday that NASA’s persistent spacecraft has successfully rotated its wheels on the surface of Mars for the first time since it landed two weeks ago, a few meters away.
During this first flight made on Thursday afternoon, aimed at verifying the correct operation of the system, the car, equipped with six wheels, was 4 meters ahead, then turned on itself to the left, before turning around perform a rear maneuver of 2.5 meters.
With the backup, Perseverance was able to capture a photo of its own wheel tracks on Mars soil, published by NASA.
In total, the rover, the size of a large SUV, covered six and a half meters in 33 minutes.
“I don’t think I was very happy to see the wheel marks,” said Anis Zarifyan, the engineer in charge of rover mobility at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, where it was built.
“Our first flight went very well, which is a huge milestone for the mission,” she said.
A slightly longer trip is due to be planned this Friday, and possibly Saturday as well, if all goes well.
The spacecraft will be able to travel 200 meters on each Mars day (days slightly longer than those on Earth). It travels five times faster than the Curiosity spacecraft, which is still operating on Mars.
The Perseverance landed on February 18 at Jezero Crater, which scientists believe was home to a deep lake 3.5 billion years ago. The aim of the mission is to collect rock samples that will be returned to Earth on a later mission, in order to search for traces of ancient life on the Red Planet.
Quebec flight engineer Farah Ali Bey, a persistent robot pilot, remains amazed at the scale of the exploration mission, two weeks after the robot’s arrival on Mars.
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