Perseverance took its first drive on Mars

March 6, 2021 • 10:30 am

Yesterday Perseverance finally revved itself up and took a short drive: 33 minutes.  It apparently went well; as CNN reports:

The NASA Perseverance rover has taken its first drive on Mars, traveling about 21 feet and doing a little spin across Jezero Crater. And that first 33-minute test drive on Thursday went “incredibly well,” according to Anais Zarifian, Perseverance’s mobility test bed engineer.

Perseverance sent back images of its wheel tracks across the red Martian surface Friday.

This is the first of many checkouts and milestones for the rover after its successful landing on February 18. Once the mission truly begins exploring Mars, it will go on drives averaging about 656 feet or more.

“When it comes to wheeled vehicles on other planets, there are few first-time events that measure up in significance to that of the first drive,” Zarifian said. “This was our first chance to ‘kick the tires’ and take Perseverance out for a spin. The rover’s six-wheel drive responded superbly. We are now confident our drive system is good to go, capable of taking us wherever the science leads us over the next two years.”
During the first drive, the rover drove forward 13 feet, performed a 150-degree turn to the left and reversed 8 feet. The rover was able to turn its cameras to the site where it landed.
Here’s the “wheelie selfie”, showing the tracks that proved the thing moved, and below that is a video report on the drive featuring NASA engineers, with some nice footage of Perseverance’s trial on Earth.

 

We don’t yet have video from Perseverance in the surface, and I’m not sure why that is. But of course I’m greedy; it’s just amazing that we put a wheeled vehicle on Mars that is tootling about and will soon pick up rocks and drill into the surface. What an achievement! What boggles my mind the most is that a species of primate, wresting materials from the earth alone, forged all technology to get this thing to Mars, set it down, and drive it about.

h/t: Charles

26 thoughts on “Perseverance took its first drive on Mars

  1. This is without question one of the greatest (or THE greatest) engineering and scientific achievements of all time. I am not sure that the USA is getting all the credit it deserves. I am sure there will be people who can find some downsides, but I cant. It is all superlatives

    1. There is also much non-US technology on Perseverance. I think it is an international endeavour.

    2. Certainly one of the greatest engineering achievements, but so far it has not made any scientific achievements that I am aware of. It does have the potential do do so, if it finds evidence of past life there.

  2. drives averaging about 656 feet or more
    This is obviously converted from “200 metres”. This is silly. If CNN have to convert to feet, “About 650 feet” would be far more sensible. The BBC pulls the same nonsense.

    1. The BBC converted it to “21 feet” here:
      https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/science-environment-56297996

      The British attitude to imperial measurements is mind boggling given the fact that I was being taught to use metric units at my infant school (ages 5-7 years) in England 50-odd years ago. The number of people who were too old to make that mental adjustment back then – around the same time that we converted to decimal currency – must be vanishingly small now. Yet the instance on always using both sets of units means that most people in the UK are still confused about the metric system they learned at school because we still use imperial measures “in real life” and so and want to know what, say, 50 kilos is “in real money”. (Now Brexit has happened, things are only going to get worse in this regard – as in so many others.)

      1. Famously, the mixture of imperial and SI units led to the unsuccessful Mars Climate Orbiter mission.

        “According to NASA, the cost of the mission was $327.6 million total for the orbiter and lander, comprising $193.1 million for spacecraft development, $91.7 million for launching it, and $42.8 million for mission operations.”

        https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mars_Climate_Orbiter

  3. My pet peeve about this and many other documentary videos is the constant repetition of the same clips; the video of the test drive on earth was looped over and over, as if they think humans don’t have memories. I see this all the time on history shows, where it is slightly understandable because there isn’t a lot of video or film of some events, but why do it here, where video is abundant? And to make it worse, they tended to cut some of the video segments of the test drive just as things were about to get interesting, as if they think humans have the attention span of an amoeba.

    Nevertheless, an amzing achievement!

  4. What I liked was that when it landed successfully, after the whooping and cheering, the male staff all adjusted their trousers. In the movies they never do that.

  5. I wonder if anybody else suffers from my problem: at least 10% of this young lady’s narration is incomprehensible to me.

    It’s something like a high-frequency echo superimposed atop the audio.

    I, personally, may have just aged beyond an ability to discriminate, but there must be plenty of actually deaf persons who helped pay for this adventure, and for whom one might think that the gov’t would provide (optional) captions.

    1. YUP – you can love a robot. I had a long loving relationship with Curiosity. I was aware it was one-sided but none-the-less…. I was genuinely sad when Curiosity checked in with the final status message in mid-June 2018. 😔 RIP to a high achiever.

      Now I look forward a long, bright future for Perseverance.

      1. Get your head outta the gutter ol’ boy. 🙂 And you remind of that “Heavy Metal” sketch with the robot. And the guilt associated with cross technological sex play.

  6. “We don’t yet have video from Perseverance in the surface, and I’m not sure why that is.”
    I can think of two reasons:
    1. What capabilities are must-haves (from science viewpoints) vs nice-to-haves: These often conflicting requirements lead to the inevitable engineering trade-offs that are required within the space/power/mass budgets of any item launched into space. Because it is basically a science mission, I suspect the engineers and scientists are concentrating on science tasks. As an example, the rover’s latest “expedition” was mostly to check that it functions as designed, and not doing “real” work yet!
    2. Video requires a lot of data (megabytes), and therefore a lot of time to send it to Earth – see at https://mars.nasa.gov/msl/mission/communications/#data
    The communications speed is determined by the basic limitations of the physics of communications over such vast distances: the transmitter power is limited, both on the rover, and the Mars Orbiters which acts as relay stations to Earth; the fact that radiated power (from the antennae) decreases as the inverse square of distance. As a result, the “transmission speed” (data rates in bits per second) has to be low, to enable a signal to be extracted from the noise – Claude Shannon’s Information Theory https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Information_theory lays that out.
    The rover’s comms system is explained in an reasonably accessible way at https://mars.nasa.gov/msl/mission/communications/

    1. Pretty much my reasoning when I encountered the same question in another thread on this site … about 20 minutes ago.
      Example – on Earth, we paid some tens of thousands of dollars a day for a 6MB/s satellite link to the boat. Well, global travelling, up to 300km from shore (and therefore, from land-based communications).
      Of that 6MB/s, 4MB/s was reserved at the VPN-ing router for the data link for the science instruments. Seismic, wireline, that sort of thing. Leaving 2MB/s to be divided between the non-science business and engineering needs (engine monitoring, logistics, all that good stuff). That would be 50 to 80 accounts on-shift, checking email, making telephone calls etc (we had at least 6 hand-held Iridiums for emergency comms too, but everything else went through VOIP down the same pipe). So call that 40kB/s on average per user.
      And that allows zero – 0B/s – communications for people off shift. And far from everyone had a business need for communications of any sort while on-shift. We had to allow some bandwidth for “SDP” (Social Domestic and Pleasure), but we put that on a separate, in-accommodation WiFi network (the business network was mostly wired, with a strictly controlled WiFi for business users), which was at the bottom of the pecking order for bandwidth allocation. So, for example, if my boss had ordered me to upload a quarter GB of digital photos to head office before 07:00 CET, then that meant Joey the Derrickman couldn’t phone his wife in Manila until 4 hours into his sleep period, at least.
      Every, and I do mean every, helicopter, myself or one of the safety officers had to explain this in excruciating detail to people coming on board, and why, in consequence, all video-calling was banned. Outright. Flat out ban. At the firewall, which was controlled from the dinosaur pit under the oil company’s head office.

      You have got to have a very, very good reason to use video. PR might be that good a reason, but someone is going to have to work hard to make that case to take bandwidth away from some other use.

      Gods, how I hate Hollywood when it projects the myth of infinite bandwidth, everywhere, all the time.

  7. Those interested in “Persy” might also be interested to know that the SETI institute will be holding a web-meeting on Perseverance on March 24th involving

    St. Louis-based research scientist Dr. Pablo Sobron […] on his journey to discover life on the Red Planet. Learn about his experience as a member of NASA’s Mars 2020/Perseverance Rover Science Team and the mission to seek signs of ancient life on Mars and collect samples for return to Earth.

    and Elena Amador-French

    a science systems engineer at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) and a Science Operation Coordinator for the Curiosity rover.

    The date/time I’m getting by email is Wednesday, March 24, 2021
    7:00 PM PDT, and you need to register through Eventbrite, though there seems to be a route through St Louis Academy of Sciences too. That’s at god-awful o’clock in Europe, but they’re generally worth the effort.
    Beware the rabbit hole that is SETI’s channel of astronomy lunchtime seminars. Go down there and you’re kissing goodbye to hundreds of hours of your eyeballs.

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