words by Rob Barrie, Science and Tech Sub-Editor
After the success of its voyage and subsequent landing, Perseverance has started driving on Mars . In total, it will trek across fifteen kilometres of the desolate Martian plains over the coming two years; although that is the equivalent of one year on Mars.
It takes about fifteen minutes for pictures taken by Perseverance to reach Earth, but the snapshots already taken of our neighbouring planet by the rover have been remarkable. Now, its mission is to travel to Jezero crater, an ancient – and now dry – lake, where there is hope that rock samples gathered by the rover will reveal clues and indeed answers as to whether life exists on planets other than Earth.
Along its journey to the crater, Perseverance will also deploy Ingenuity, a small helicopter. If flown successfully, it will become the first object to be flown independently on a planet other than Earth. It has functionality too, with its cameras being able to map out the terrain and find suitable paths for Perseverance to take, aiding the rover’s traversal across the rocky surface.
Today, pictures sent from Perseverance have shown that the pre-journey checks are complete. Pictures of its wheels practicing left and right turns occurred without problem, and all other system parameters were observed to be healthy.
And so, after two weeks of patiently waiting for the green light, the six-wheeled robotic rover will now start its mission proper and, hopefully, become the vessel that reveals whether life really has existed on Mars. Godspeed, Perseverance.