CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. — NASA’s newestthis week, putting 21 feet on the odometer in its first test drive. The Perseverance rover life. The roundabout, back-and-forth drive and went so well that more driving was on tap Friday and Saturday for the six-wheeled rover.
“This is the start of our journey here,” said Rich Rieber, the NASA engineer who plotted the route. “This is going to be like the Odyssey, adventures along the way, hopefully, no Cyclops, and I’m sure there will be stories aplenty written about it.” In its first drive, Perseverance went forward 13 feet (4 meters),turn, then backed up 8 feet (2.5 meters). During a news conference Friday, NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, shared small rocks.
“I don’t think I’ve ever been happier to see wheel tracks, and I’ve seen many of them,” said engineer Anais Zarifian.
Flight controllers are still checking all of Perseverance’s systems. So far, everything is looking good. For instance, the rover’s 7-foot (2-meter) robot armfor the first time Tuesday.
Before the car-size rover can head for an ancient river delta to collect rocks for eventual, it must drop its so-called protective “belly pan” and release an experimental helicopter named Ingenuity.
As it turns out, Perseverance landed right on the edge of a potential helicopter landing strip — a nice, flat spot, according to Rieber. So theis to drive out of this landing strip, ditch the pan, then return for Ingenuity’s highly anticipated test flight. All this should be accomplished by late .
Scientists debate whether to take the smoother route to the nearby delta or a possibly morewith intriguing remnants from that once-watery time 3 billion to 4 billion years ago.
Perseverance —yet — successfully became the ninth U.S. on Feb. 18. China hopes to — currently orbiting the red planet — in another few months.
NASA scientists, meanwhile,that they’d named Perseverance’s touchdown site in honor of the late science fiction writer Octavia E. Butler, who grew up next door to JPL in Pasadena. Her works included “Bloodchild and Other Stories” and “Parable of the Sower.” She was one of the first to receive mainstream attention for science fiction.
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