What NASA's Mars Perseverance Rover Mission Has Achieved In Its First 50 Days

On April 9, Perseverance will have been on the surface of Mars for 50 days.

Since its February 18 landing, the car-sized rover has captured public attention and made global headlines as it explores the Martian surface.

The mission is only just getting started, but Perseverance has already got a number of achievements under its belt.

20,000 raw images and first audio recordings

To date, Perseverance has sent at least 20,020 total raw images from the Martian surface back to Earth.

Many of these have stood out from the others; the first one that was beamed back just moments after landing; the first photos of the rover's own tracks in the sand; and a "selfie" of Perseverance alongside the Ingenuity rover, seen below.

Perseverance selfie
NASA’s Perseverance Mars rover took a selfie with the Ingenuity helicopter, seen here about 13 feet (3.9 meters) from the rover in this image taken April 6, 2021. NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS

In addition, NASA has continued its Image of the Week feature, in which the public can vote on what they think is the best recent image the rover has taken.

Some of the most action-packed photos were taken before the rover had even touched down, as several cameras snapped the landing procedure.

Steve Jurczyk, acting NASA Administrator, said in a February statement the rover has "provided some of the most iconic visuals in space exploration history."

Soon after touchdown, Perseverance also captured the first audio recordings from Mars. NASA released sound clips just a few days after landing, in which a slight breeze of wind can be heard as well as the mechanical sounds of the rover operating on the surface.

Later, the rover also captured the first sounds of its wheels grinding along the rough desert surface of the red planet.

Studies rocks, determined wind erosion

Perseverance has been investigating rocks, and scientists have already determined that several of them are chemically similar to volcanic rocks here on Earth.

The rover has used its on-board laser to zap nearby rocks, and scientists can use this tool to work out what they're made of. One such rock, named Yeehgo, had signs that water is locked up inside its minerals, Roger Wiens, a geochemist at Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico, told the journal Nature.

Based on Perseverance's current findings, scientists have also seen that rocks around the landing site seem to have been eroded by wind.

In particular, this wind seems to have come mainly from the northwest which confirms wind patterns on the planet that researchers had already predicted, Jim Bell, a planetary scientist at Arizona State University, told Nature.

These are all early findings, though, based on rocks around the landing site. Perseverance's main arsenal of scientific instruments will not be deployed for another few months.

Eventually, Perseverance will examine the Martian landscape for signs of ancient microbial life, and select rock and sediment samples that could one day be returned to Earth.

Before that, scientists want to test the Ingenuity helicopter, which is set to fly as early as April 12 EDT. Perseverance will try to capture the event on video.

Safely stored and released Ingenuity

Set to be a demonstration of the first powered flight on another world, NASA has high hopes for Ingenuity.

Already, Perseverance has successfully deployed the little helicopter onto the Martian surface, having successfully stored it inside its underbelly until then.

Ingenuity was dropped off onto the Martian surface by Perseverance this week, and on April 5 NASA announced it had survived its first night alone on the freezing surface of Mars—confirmation that its insulation and heating systems are working.

The first flight will see the little helicopter rise a few feet into the air and hover for 20 to 30 seconds before landing again. Longer and higher flights will follow.

If the tests go well, NASA says the technology used in Ingenuity could also be used in other flying robots on Mars in the future, which would help with other missions and provide a unique aerial viewpoint. They could also reach areas that ground-based rovers cannot.

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