Perseverance Celebrates an Anniversary

“Along with Ingenuity, intrepid helicopter Wing Man”

The Mars 2020 descent stage lowers NASA’s Perseverance rover onto the Red Planet on February 18, 2021. The image is from video captured by a camera aboard the descent stage. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

The rover has racked up a series of accomplishments, including new distance records, as it reaches the end of the first of several planned science campaigns on the Red Planet.

NASA’s Perseverance rover has notched up a slew of firsts since touching down on Mars one year ago, on February 18, 2021, and the six-wheeled scientist has other important accomplishments in store as it speeds toward its new destination and a new science campaign.

Weighing roughly 1 ton (1,025 kilograms), Perseverance is the heaviest rover ever to touch down on Mars, returning dramatic video of its landing. The rover collected the first rock core samples from another planet (it’s carrying six so far), served as an indispensable base station for Ingenuity, the first helicopter on Mars, and tested MOXIE (Mars Oxygen In-Situ Resource Utilization Experiment), the first prototype oxygen generator on the Red Planet.

NASA’s Mars 2020 Perseverance mission captured thrilling footage of the rover landing in Mars’ Jezero Crater on February 18, 2021. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

Perseverance also recently broke a record for the most distance driven by a Mars rover in a single day, traveling almost 1,050 feet (320 meters) on February 14, 2022, the 351st Martian day, or sol, of the mission. And it performed the entire drive using AutoNav, the self-driving software that allows Perseverance to find its own path around rocks and other obstacles.

The rover has nearly wrapped up its first science campaign in Jezero Crater, a location that contained a lake billions of years ago and features some of the oldest rocks Mars scientists have been able to study up close. Rocks that have recorded and preserved environments that once hosted water are prime locations to search for signs of ancient microscopic life. (more)

Perseverance, which is about the size of an SUV, was built to survive for at least two years on Mars; Ingenuity was not. The 4-pound (1.8-kilogram) helicopter was designed for five experimental test flights in April. To date, Ingenuity has achieved an astonishing 15 flights, and it hasn’t abandoned Perseverance yet.

Ingenuity flying behind Percy