NASA celebrates Perseverance Rover's 1000th Martian day with lakebed history lesson
As its companion helicopter plans its furthest flight yet
NASA has celebrated the Perseverance Rover's 1000th Martian day of operations, and prepared the longest ever flight for the helicopter that accompanied it to the home of Marvin.
Perseverance reached the surface of Mars on February 18, 2021 – 1,028 days ago. Martian days, however, are 37 minutes longer than terrestrial days. As of December 12, Perseverance has spent 1,000 of those elongated days exploring Jezero Crater on the Red Planet.
NASA's celebratory post details research based on data collected by the rover and presented at Tuesday's meeting of the American Geophysical Union.
Among the findings are that one of the sites Perseverance has visited, "Lefroy Bay," contains "a large quantity of fine-grained silica, a material known to preserve ancient fossils on Earth." Another stop on the 22.896km journey the rover has undertaken to date was named "Otis Peak" and has been found to host a significant amount of phosphate – a substance associated with life on Earth.
Carbonate was found at both sites, exciting scientists as the substance can offer hints about environmental conditions at the time of its formation.
Those finds, and others, have led scientists to assess that Jezero Crater once housed a lake that may have reached 35 kilometers in diameter and a depth of 30 meters, and offered many of the molecules needed by life on Earth.
Perseverance has collected 23 samples it's hoped will one day be brought to Earth for study. Sadly, the mission to do so is in doubt.
While bureaucrats, boffins and beancounters debate that mission, Perseverance has been given instructions to pursue its fourth campaign: checking out Jezero Crater's margin, near the canyon entrance where a river once emptied. Scientists want to check out more carbonate deposits observed in this region, which NASA asserts "stands out in orbital images like a ring within a bathtub."
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Another of Perseverance's successes is the Ingenuity Mars helicopter – an experimental craft that was originally planned to be used in just five flights. It's done rather better than that: the copter's pilots planned for it to fly for the 68th time on December 12, and to traverse 828 meters in an out and back flight at 10 meters per second.
That speed will match the craft's previous record, while the distance will exceed April 2022's flight 25 by 124 meters.
What. A. Machine. ®