TechThe Mars rover breaks a record. Perseverance never ceases to amaze

The Mars rover breaks a record. Perseverance never ceases to amaze

Images source: © NASA
8:40 AM EDT, September 30, 2023, updated: 9:07 AM EDT, October 5, 2023

Since its landing on Mars in February 2021, the Perseverance rover never ceases to amaze. The new construction of NASA is traversing through the expanses of the Red Planet at a speed unprecedented for rovers. It's yet another record that Perseverance can boast.

The Perseverance rover landed on Mars on February 18, 2021, along with the Ingenuity helicopter, which was the first man-made device to fly in the atmosphere of another planet. Both devices are part of the Mars 2020 mission, whose aim is to conduct a myriad of studies and experiments in the Martian Jezero crater they are investigating. Thanks to its MOXIE module, Perseverance even produced a certain amount of oxygen from the carbon dioxide available in the Mars atmosphere, and thanks to microphones, we were able to listen to a recording of wind blowing on an alien planet. Now, in turn, the rover added another record to its list of achievements and can proudly call itself the fastest of the rovers.

This is possible thanks to the autonomous pilot at the controls of the rover

Controllers from NASA announced that Perseverance traversed the rocky area known as Snowdrift Peak about three times faster than any other rover would have been able to. NASA does not give any specific speed here, as the rover didn't rush forward to cover the distance in the shortest possible time, but at the same time conducted geological research in accordance with its mission. Nonetheless, researchers stated that, after subtracting the sols (Martian days, which last about 24 hours and 39 minutes) spent on scientific research, it took Perseverance only 6 sols to conquer Snowdrift Peak. For comparison, the Curiosity rover would have had to dedicate a full 18 sols to achieve the same feat.

This feat was made possible by the AutoNav software that uses onboard cameras, allowing the rover to move autonomously and seek the best route based on the collected data. NASA only designated general points on the rover's route, leaving the movement between them to the automatic pilot.

A photo visualizing the route of Perseverance through a dense field of boulders.
A photo visualizing the route of Perseverance through a dense field of boulders.© NASA

Thanks to the autopilot feature, traversing vast expanses of the Red Planet has become much faster. The rover can seek its optimal route in real time, without having to wait for commands from the controllers on Earth. Similar capabilities were given to the Curiosity rover, after updating its software. This is a significant improvement compared to the Sojourner robot, which had to stop every 5 inches, so the processor could determine the next move to make. However, the team responsible for Perseverance emphasizes that the current achievements of their robot are only possible thanks to the previous accomplishments of Sojourner, Spirit, Opportunity, and Curiosity.

Perseverance has many records

The rover accomplished many record achievements during its mission. These include the distance record covered in one day, which was 380 yards, or the longest segment traveled entirely autonomously, without human control, which was 765 yards. Using AutoNav, Perseverance covered as much as 88 percent of the total distance it has so far traveled on Mars, which currently amounts to 11 miles. The previous record for total distance in autonomous mode belonged to Opportunity, which traveled a total of 1.5 miles without human control over 14 years of operation.

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