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Mars Perseverance rover drives for 1st time on Red Planet

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Perseverance went for its first spin on its mission to gather rocks for an eventual return to Earth.

CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla — NASA’s latest Mars rover hit the dusty crimson highway this week, placing 21 toes on the odometer in its first take a look at drive. The Perseverance rover ventured from its touchdown place Thursday, two weeks after setting down on the crimson planet to hunt indicators of previous life.

The roundabout, backwards and forwards drive lasted simply 33 minutes and went so effectively that extra driving was on faucet Friday and Saturday for the the six-wheeled rover.

“That is actually the beginning of our journey right here,” mentioned Wealthy Rieber, the NASA engineer who plotted the route. “That is going to be just like the Odyssey, adventures alongside the best way, hopefully no Cyclops, and I’m positive there can be tales aplenty written about it.”

In its first drive, Perseverance went ahead 13 toes (four meters), took a 150-degree left flip, then backed up eight toes (2.5 meters). Throughout a information convention Friday, NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, shared photographs of its tracks over and round small rocks.

“I do not suppose I’ve ever been happier to see wheel tracks and I’ve seen numerous them,” mentioned engineer Anais Zarifian.

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Flight controllers are nonetheless checking all of Perseverance’s methods. To this point, every thing is wanting good. The rover’s 7-foot (2-meter) robotic arm, as an illustration, flexed its muscle groups for the primary time Tuesday.

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Earlier than the car-size rover can head for an historical river delta to gather rocks for eventual return to Earth, it should drop its so-called protecting “stomach pan” and launch an experimental helicopter named Ingenuity.

Because it seems, Perseverance landed proper on the sting of a possible helicopter touchdown strip — a pleasant, flat spot, in line with Rieber. So the plan is to drive out of this touchdown strip, ditch the pan, then return for Ingenuity’s extremely anticipated take a look at flight. All this must be achieved by late spring.

Scientists are debating whether or not to take the smoother path to get to the close by delta or a presumably harder method with intriguing remnants from that once-watery time three billion to four billion years in the past.

Perseverance — NASA’s greatest and most elaborate rover but — grew to become the ninth U.S. spacecraft to efficiently land on Mars on Feb. 18. China hopes to land its smaller rover — at the moment orbiting the crimson planet — in one other few months.

NASA scientists, in the meantime, introduced Friday that they’ve named Perseverance’s landing website in honor of the late science fiction author Octavia E. Butler, who grew up subsequent door to JPL in Pasadena. She was one of many first African People to obtain mainstream consideration for science fiction. Her works included “Bloodchild and Different Tales” and “Parable of the Sower.”

The Related Press Well being and Science Division receives help from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute’s Division of Science Training. The AP is solely liable for all content material.

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