Perseverance Gets a Full Checkup, Test Drive Before Getting Down to Geology

The Perseverance rover touched down on Feb. 18, 2021 at 2:55 p.m. CST with live play-by-play straight from JPL Mission control. Within moments after touchdown, during celebration and high-fives, a picture emerged from the rover on the surface of Mars.

The rover and landing system later returned spectacular images of the landing and the first 360-degree panorama of the landing zone. Already hundreds of images have been sent home. Most of these first images are from camera systems and subsystem checkouts.

Image Caption

The Sky Crane, hovering on thrusters, lowers the oneton Perseverance rover on cables to a soft landing in Jezero Crater on Feb. 18, 2021. Image courtesy of NASA/JPL-Caltech.

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The Perseverance rover touched down on Feb. 18, 2021 at 2:55 p.m. CST with live play-by-play straight from JPL Mission control. Within moments after touchdown, during celebration and high-fives, a picture emerged from the rover on the surface of Mars.

The rover and landing system later returned spectacular images of the landing and the first 360-degree panorama of the landing zone. Already hundreds of images have been sent home. Most of these first images are from camera systems and subsystem checkouts.

Katie Stack Morgan, geologist and deputy project scientist of the Mars 2020 rover mission, published on the geology of Jezero Crater in the December EXPLORER. Currently, she reports, “I’m living on Mars time!” as she, along with rover engineers, check out each system and calibrate each important science instrument on “Percy.” The rover scientists and engineers stretch their living clock about 40 minutes longer each Earth day to stay on track with daylight on Mars.

On Percy Sol 9, Martian geologist Kiersten Siebach reports on the rocks among which Percy landed.

“I think at this point, the real highlights are the pictures – there’s not much any of us can say about the geology besides noting that the rocks are light-toned and have holes, which could be vesicles or pits eroded by water or wind. We’ve got a couple months of mostly engineering checkouts ahead of us, and then the real science begins!” she said.

Siebach is an assistant professor in the Rice University Department of Earth, Environmental, and Planetary Sciences, and is one of 13 scientists selected to help operate the rover.

AAPG EXPLORE Live! held a panel on March 18 (Percy Sol 27) on “Perseverance and the Geology of Mars,” featuring Siebach and Michael Thorpe, Mars sample return scientist at the Johnson Space Center, AAPG President Rick Fritz and AAPG Astrogeology Committee co-chairs Bill Ambrose and Bruce Cutright.

As the rover gets down to the work of geologic exploration in Jezero Crater, it will look for signs of ancient life from over 3.5 billion years ago when a river delta and lake filled the impact crater for millions of years.

Mars Landscape as seen from Perseverance

Comments (2)

Engaging NASA MUREP (Minority University Research and Education Project) K9-16 Students in Planetary Geology through Information Collected by the Perseverance Rover
The successful landing of the Perseverance Rover on the Red Planet is opening up a new frontier to educators and students interested in learning about Martian geology. The MUREP Aerospace Academy Program (aka MAA) has been successfully operating for more than six years, allowing underrepresented student groups to acquire both fundamental and experiential knowledge about NASA’s space exploration and supplement the future need to prepare well-trained geoscientists as part of the future workforce. Educating students at an earlier level with grade-specific, hands-on, and inquiry-based in school or after-school curriculum is certainly deemed as a viable pedagogical mechanism to ensure a pipeline build-up. Attending students will have access to critical information through the Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) – to initiate research and draw meaningful conclusions related to geomorphology, soil, rocks and minerals. Given the broader scope of the Artemis and Perseverance science projects, a voluminous amount of data will be available for interested geoscientists and students. Following the concept of Citizen Science, curious students can spend few additional hours to navigate through the JPL webpage and get familiar with new findings. Technical tools needed to augment material-based data refinement will include polarizing microscopes, currently available digital microscopes, and hand-held chemical analyzers such as an X-ray fluorescence unit. MUREP resources will support the procurement of these tools, allowing students to work in a group of three or four to collect data, and analyze it in order to prepare professional style reports. Ultimately, it can be shared to receive feedback from the JPL. Given the new potential look at finding both energy and metallic resources from the outer planets, the involvement of students in Artemis-and-Perseverance Rover missions will be certainly a game changer!
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4/12/2021 8:21:45 PM
The historical landing of the Perseverance on the Red Planet is opening up a plethora of academic research in the geosciences.
The milestone event leading up to the historic landing of the Perseverance Rover on the Red Planet on February 18, 2021 is opening up a new frontier for academicians and students in the geosciences. It is certainly going to attract numerous individuals in astrogeology, planetary geology and general geosciences to refresh and revisit the way we impart lessons to students. Using terrestrial examples as analog to interpreting Martian rocks and mineral samples, students need to be trained using physical specimens and polarizing microscopes. An added tool as hand-held X-ray fluorescence will certainly help determining g the chemistry and understanding the make-up of the specimen. NASA Minority University Research and Education Project (aka MUREP) has been inspiring K9-16 students for several years and releasing resources to enable underrepresented students to become aware of the astrogeology and planetary geology. Going forward, between the Artemis and Perseverance Rover missions, plenty of future opportunities will arrive and it is the right time to engage young explores about Martian and Lunar-based STEM outreach activities.
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4/12/2021 4:48:11 PM

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