Stunning NASA Mars Satellite Photo Shows Perseverance Rover Before It Takes Some Downtime

NASA has captured an image of the Mars Perseverance Rover that shows it as a white speck against the vast empty terrain of the Red Planet as it prepares for a well-deserved rest.

Using the High-Resolution Imaging Science Experiment, or HiRISE, camera aboard the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter, NASA captured the rover as it makes its way through the South Séítah area of Mars' Jezero Crater.

The Rover made history on September 3 by successfully drilling the first rock core taken from a Martian boulder. This was quickly followed by the collection of a second sample just fours days later. The samples will be stored by the Perseverance rover as it awaits a joint NASA/European Space Agency sample collection-and-return mission.

Unfortunately, the Rover will have to wait a little while before collecting more rock core samples. All the Mars missions are currently preparing to hibernate awaiting further orders from their operators here on Earth.

This break in activity, which will extend from October 2 to October 16, is necessary as Mars passes around the opposite side of the Sun from Earth, a period known as Mars solar conjunction, which occurs every two Earth years.

During this period, hot ionized gas from our star's corona interferes with radio signals sent from Earth to Mars.

"During solar conjunction, when Earth and Mars can't 'see' each other, this gas can interfere with radio signals if engineers try to communicate with spacecraft at Mars," NASA operatives said in a press release. "That could corrupt commands and result in unexpected behavior from our deep space explorers."

I’m parked in a sweet spot between dunes and a rock outcrop, ready for a 2-week solar conjunction, when the Sun blocks signals to and from Mars. During the lull, I’ll tackle jobs I can do on my own, like watching for dust devils and taking in the weather.

— NASA's Perseverance Mars Rover (@NASAPersevere) September 28, 2021

On the Perseverance Twitter feed, the rover described its position located between the sandy dunes of South Séítah and a rocky outcrop. The break period, which could be extended by a day or two depended on the angle between earth and Mars, won't be marked by complete inactivity, however.

The rover will be monitoring Martian weather with the Mars Environmental Dynamics Analyzer, MEDA. Its cameras will be monitoring the effects of winds stirring up dust devils on the surface of Mars, while its microphones will be listening for new sounds.

"Though our Mars missions won't be as active these next few weeks, they'll still let us know their state of health," manager of the Mars Relay Network at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Southern California, Roy Gladden said in a press release. "Each mission has been given some homework to do until they hear from us again."

The Mars Missions
NASA’s Mars missions, clockwise from top left: Perseverance rover and Ingenuity Mars Helicopter, InSight lander, Odyssey orbiter, MAVEN orbiter, Curiosity rover, and Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter.The missions will be taking a two-week hiatus as Mars passes around the opposite side of the Sun. NASA

While the Perseverance Rover waits in the Jezero crater for further orders, its fellow Mars missions have also selected their resting spots. The Ingenuity Mars Helicopter is grounded just 575 feet from the rover, updating Perseverance on its status each week.

From its resting spot in the Gale Crater, where it landed in 2012, Perseverance's fellow rover Curiosity will also be monitoring Martian weather. In addition to this, Curiosity will also track radiation levels on the Red Planet.

The InSight lander, which monitors Martian seismic activity and searches for marsquakes, is stationary anyway so it won't be majorly affected by the Mars solar conjunction. It will continue to use its seismometer to monitor seismic activity on the planet.

While the shutdown is in place, the stream of raw images that Perseverance and its fellow missions have been beaming back to Earth will also halt and data collected during this pause will be downloaded before operations begin as normal again, a process which could itself take a week.

The three orbiters circling Mars, Odyssey, MAVEN, and the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter will continue to send images and data back to operators here on Earth during these two weeks.

The main mission of Perseverance is the characterization of Martian geology and its climate history, as well as searching for traces of ancient life on the Red Planet. This mission will pave the way for human exploration of the Red Planet in the future.

NASA’s Perseverance rover
NASA’s Perseverance rover is pictured roaming the South Séítah area of Mars’ Jezero Crater. The image was captured by Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter using its High-Resolution Imaging Science Experiment, or HiRISE, camera. JPL-Caltech/University of Arizona/NASA