NASA's Perseverance rover shared an exciting photo on Friday from right before its wheels first touched the surface of Mars. In the photo shared on the official Perseverance Twitter account, we get an extremely rare, close-up photo of an entire rover on (or almost on) another planet. The lower right quarter shows the wires that were used to lower the vehicle down from its "jetpack" lander, which hovered above the surface using rocket propulsion. The moment that my team dreamed of for years, now a reality. After the descent and confirmation of landing, the lander was programmed to fly away to a safe distance and land on the surface so as not to damage the precious rover it just dropped off.
Following an eight-day delay NASA is set to launch the Perseverance rover at 7:50 AM ET today. The lander, orbiter and rover will launch aboard United Launch Alliance's highly reliable Atlas V rocket to kick off what should be a very exciting mission. The original launch, scheduled for July 22nd, had to be scrubbed due to a balky liquid oxygen sensor. You'll be able to watch the launch live on NASA's site at nasa.gov/live or at the stream embedded below. The relatively complicated mission will use a rover, lander and orbiter to examine the geological history of Mars.
Mars has excellent ingredients for dust devils. While taking images of its new surroundings on the arid Martian surface, the Perseverance rover recently spotted a whirl of dust spinning by in the distance. Seen below, the dust devil appears beyond the rover's arm: See the zoomed-in view of this dust devil on Mars. Mars is an exceptionally dry, windswept desert planet today, so it's ideal grounds for short-lived dust devils to form. Planetary scientists at NASA think Mars once supported bounties of water -- and perhaps life therein.
The Perseverance rover's tracks during its 4 March drive on Mars Since NASA's Perseverance rover landed on Mars on 18 February, it's been doing as much science as it can during the testing phase of its scientific instruments. That has involved driving short distances and taking pictures of the rocks near the landing site. "So far, all of this has been going exceedingly well," said Ken Farley at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in California, during a presentation at the virtual Lunar and Planetary Science Conference. "We've had no major technical issues." The rover's first drive on 4 March – which lasted 33 minutes and covered about 6.5 metres – demonstrated that it can, in fact, rove, and the other tests are going smoothly as well, he said.
Remember the colourful iMac computers from the late 1990s? The same processor that powered those is being used to run NASA's Mars Perseverance rover. This processor, which is also being used in the Curiosity rover, has just 10.4 million transistors – even affordable smartphones now have more than 1000 times as many. So why is such old technology used in a cutting-edge space exploration mission? It all comes down to radiation.