NASA’s Perseverance Mars Rover Enters Third Year in Search for Signs of Life at Jezero Crater

The rover keeps looking for rocks on Mars that might be interesting to analyze on Earth after finishing the first sample depot on another planet.

On February 18, the Perseverance rover from NASA will mark its second birthday on the surface of Mars. The six-wheeled, nuclear-powered rover has been exploring Jezero Crater since it arrived there in 2021, studying the Red Planet's geology and gathering samples that are essential to the first phase of the NASA-ESA (European Space Agency) Mars Sample Return program. In order to find evidence of prehistoric microbial life and to better understand the processes that formed the surface of Mars, scientists wish to analyze Martian samples using high-tech lab equipment on Earth.

Video in High Definition of Perseverance's Landing This is a high-resolution version of a video that was captured on Feb. 18, 2021, by a number of cameras when NASA's Perseverance rover touched down on Mars. These images were taken by the rover's cameras, and the first audio of a Martian landing was recorded by a microphone. NASA/JPL-Caltech credit

The Perseverance team is reflecting and celebrating a lot on its anniversary, according to Ken Farley, a scientist on the project at Caltech in Pasadena. "With perseverance, hundreds of fascinating geologic features have been examined, data collected, 15 rock cores have been taken, and the first sample depot on another planet has been established. With the launch of the upcoming science campaign, dubbed "Higher Fan," on February 15, we anticipate quickly increasing that total.

Perseverance has gathered two regolith samples, one atmosphere sample, three "witness" tubes, in addition to the rock cores. (Read more about the first 18 samples obtained.)

Not simply because there are a lot of scientists and engineers on the Mars rover mission team, who typically don't mind numbers, but also because statistics offer the clearest and most accurate picture of vehicle patterns and performance, numbers play a significant part in the project's success.

For instance, the mission can inform you that as of February 14, the rover's left front wheel had completed 9,423 rotations in addition to the fact that it had traveled 9.3 miles (14.97 kilometers). They can also tell you that the Gas Dust Removal Tool (gDRT), a small gas-puffing device on the robotic arm, has puffed 62 times to clear leftover dust and particles from rock-abrading activities, which is part of the MOXIE (short for Mars Oxygen In-Situ Resource Utilization Experimentation) technology demonstration.

According to Perseverance deputy project manager Steve Lee of NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Southern California, "We deal with a lot of numbers." We gather them, assess them, and compare them, and more often than we'd like to admit, we occupy our loved ones over a family dinner with them.

After that, the most recent data on Perseverance's first two years of Jezero surface operations are provided below. While some may appear more imminent than others, all serve to highlight how successful the objective has been.

Perseverance Science Statistics

The rover carries seven science instruments, and they’ve been busy.

Laser shots fired by the SuperCam science instrument: 230,554

Soundings performed by the RIMFAX (Radar Imager for Mars’ Subsurface Experiment) ground-penetrating radar to study underground rock layers: 676,828

Mars audio recordings taken by SuperCam’s microphone: 662

Hours of Mars weather data recorded by MEDA (Mars Environmental Dynamics Analyzer): 15,769.1

Hours the X-ray filament on the PIXL (Planetary Instrument for X-ray Lithochemistry) instrument has operated: 298.2

Laser shots by the SHERLOC (Scanning Habitable Environments with Raman & Luminescence for Organics & Chemicals) instrument: 4,337,010

Perseverance Mobility and Operational Statistics

Along with the massive drill-toting robotic arm, the rover has a small sample handling arm inside its belly.

Times the rover’s main robotic arm has been unstowed and stowed: 64

Times the drill on that arm has touched Mars: 39

Times drill bits have been exchanged: 48
Abrasions performed by the drill: 17

Distance the rover’s sample handling arm’s z-stage has traveled up and down: 676.1 feet (206.1 meters)

According to Art Thompson, the Perseverance project manager at JPL, "Behind each figure is a lot of thinking and effort from a highly brilliant group of women and men on the Perseverance team." I can't think of a finer group to work with as we go even further since we have come a long way together.

In reality, Mars will be 97 million miles (156 million kilometers) from Earth when Perseverance celebrates its second landing anniversary. Jezero Crater should have bright skies and a high temperature of around 7 degrees Fahrenheit (minus 14 degrees Celsius). Jenkins Gap is a location in Jezero Crater where the rover has been instructed to conduct remote research and take pictures. All members of the mission crew are required to spend at least one second thinking back to where they were and how they felt when Perseverance touched down on Mars two years ago.

Details of the Mission

Astrobiology, particularly the recovery of materials that could potentially include proof of prehistoric microbial life, is Perseverance's main goal throughout its mission on Mars. By becoming the first to collect and store Martian rock and regolith, the rover will pave the path for future human exploration of Mars and examine the planet's geology and climatic history.

These sealed samples from Mars' surface will be collected by spacecraft operated by NASA and the European Space Agency (ESA) in following missions, and they will be returned to Earth for thorough investigation.

The Mars 2020 Perseverance mission is joined by Artemis missions to the Moon as part of NASA's Moon to Mars exploration effort, which will aid in preparing for human exploration of Mars.

The Perseverance rover was built and is run by the Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL), which is run by Caltech on behalf of NASA.