NASA’s Perseverance rover is making a 3-mile road trip across Mars to search for signs of life, dodging sand dunes as it goes

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Perseverance Mars rover standing side by side with NASA’s Ingenuity helicopter. NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS
  • NASA’s Perseverance Mars rover is set to travel three miles to search for signs of life.
  • Perseverance will explore a crater and pick up rock samples to be studied on Earth, NASA said.
  • Since landing in February, the rover has taken photos and helped with the helicopter Ingenuity’s test flights.
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NASA’s Perseverance rover is going on a road trip across Mars to search for signs of life.

Since NASA’s rover landed on the Red Planet on February 18, it’s taken photos of the surface of Mars and supported the helicopter Ingenuity’s flight tests. Now, Perseverance is starting its first scientific mission.

Perseverance is set to explore the Jezero Crater and cover a 1.5 square-mile patch of the Martian surface over the next few months, Jennifer Trosper, Perseverance project manager at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, said in a statement on Wednesday.

“We are putting the rover’s commissioning phase as well as the landing site in our rearview mirror and hitting the road,” she said.

Annotated image of Mars' Jezero Crater depicts the route NASA’s Perseverance rover will take during its first science campaign
Annotated map of Perseverance’s journey across Mars’ Jezero Crater NASA/JPL-Caltech/University of Arizona

“It is from this location that the first samples from another planet will be collected for return to Earth by a future mission,” Trosper added.

Perseverance will help NASA understand the geology of the crater and explore the area for signs of ancient microscopic life, the agency said in the statement.

“This area was under at least 100 meters [328 feet] of water 3.8 billion years ago,” Kevin Hand, an astrobiologist and co-lead of Perseverance’s science mission, said. “We don’t know what stories the rocks and layered outcrops will tell us, but we’re excited to get started.”

He said his team has noted “potential obstructions” that Perseverance could come across, including sand dunes.

In its road trip, Perseverance will also measure and test the area in preparation for further exploration by humans and robots, NASA added.

Perseverance, which is NASA’s fifth Mars rover, launched from Cape Canaveral, Florida, in July and traveled almost 300 million miles with Ingenuity strapped to its belly to reach the Red Planet.