For the last five weeks, Perseverance focuses mainly on assisting and documenting the innovative flights of its tiny, NASA’s 4-lb. (1.8 kilograms) Mars helicopter Ingenuity. However, the car-sized rover conducts space work of its own in the background as well.
For instance, Perseverance has highly clicked pictures its atmospheres — the boulder-studded floor of Mars’ 28-mile-wide (45 kilometers) Jezero Crater. This is where the rover and helicopter touched down on Feb. 18 — with its high-resolution Mastcam-Z imagery system.
Perseverance researchers rocks that are close by in larger detail utilizing two other instruments:
- Its rock zapping SuperCam laser
- The WATSON (“Wide Angle Topographic Sensor for Operations and Engineering”) camera at the end of its robotic arm.
The operation team is eager to know if the rocks are volcanic or sedimentary at the source.
- Volcanic rocks can act as geological clocks, permitting scientists to better understand the past. Along with the progression of Jezero, which held a lake and a river channel billions of years before.
- Sedimentary rocks, which develop through the accumulation of dirt and sand over time. It has more potential to safeguard signatures of Mars life if it ever was at Jezero.
Searching for biosignatures is one of Perseverance’s two fundamental mission responsibilities. This is along with gathering and accumulating numerous dozen samples of prospective astrobiology importance. That original Mars material will be towed to Earth by a joint NASA-European Space Agency operation, maybe as early as 2031.
Defining the Jezero rocks’ source may need grazing their surfaces and gaining compositional data from their insides. This is utilizing two other instruments on the robotic arm, names as follows:
- PIXL (“Planetary Instrument for X-ray Lithochemistry”)
- SHERLOC (“Scanning for Habitable Environments with Raman & Luminescence for Organics & Chemicals”)
“When you see within a rock, that’s where you look at the story,” says Perseverance project researcher Ken Farley. Ken is from the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena.
Perseverance is set to ramp up its space work significantly. This is because its days as a helicopter spectator are largely over. Ingenuity covered up its core technology-demonstrating operation last week and is now boarding on a long operation. This is meant to display the exploration potential of Red Planet rotorcraft.
Therefore, Ingenuity will remain to fly for a while, on trips that could help the Perseverance squad choose the most effective paths. This is in order to find rock formations that deserve up-close examination.