NASA's newest Mars rover Perseverance has put 21 feet (6.5 meters) on its odometer in its first test drive on the Red Planet. However, the drive served as a mobility test, one of many milestones that members of the Perseverance team will test and calibrate on the rover before it takes on any science missions. The back and forth drive lasted just 33 minutes and went so well that more driving was scheduled for Friday and Saturday for the six-wheeled astrobiology robot.
The drive saw Perseverance move forward some 13 feet (4 meters), take a 150-degree left turn, and move 8 feet (2.5 meters) in reverse. The rover team shared images of tracks left behind during the drive, over and around small rocks, in a statement.
Perseverance landed right on the edge of what makes a potential helicopter landing strip a nice, flat spot. The plan of action for Percy is to drive out of this landing strip ditch the pan, then return to catch Ingenuity's test flight. Before the car-size rover can head for an ancient river delta to collect rocks for eventual return to Earth, it must drop its protective belly pan and release the experimental helicopter Ingenuity.
The rover team is debating whether to take the smoother route via a nearby delta, or a potentially tougher route with intriguing remnants from that once-watery time on Mars 3 to 4 billion years ago.