NASA’s Perseverance Mars rover has emerged from its first “solar conjunction” blackout and gotten back to work on the Red Planet. It’s even phoned home with its first Mars photos since reawakening.
The car-sized Perseverance and other Mars spacecraft had to stand down for about two weeks recently when the Red Planet slipped behind the sun from Earth’s perspective. In this alignment, known as solar conjunction, our star can corrupt commands sent from Earth to Mars, so NASA and other space agencies don’t take the chance.
But Mars has come back into view for mission controls around the world, including that of Perseverance, which is based at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Southern California. So the six-wheeled robot has woken up and resumed exploring Jezero Crater, a 28-mile-wide (45 kilometers) hole in the ground that hosted a lake and a river delta billions of years ago.
“I’m back to work, parked between these two beautiful outcrops. Been doing some imaging, weather studies, chemistry experiments and getting a software update too,” mission team members wrote on Monday (Oct. 25) via Perseverance’s official Twitter account.
That post included two gorgeous recent photos of the terrain that Perseverance is traversing. The rover has snapped many more as well since waking up, and you can find them here.
Perseverance touched down on Feb. 18, tasked primarily with hunting for signs of ancient Mars life and collecting dozens of samples for future return to Earth. The rover has already socked away two tubes of pristine Mars material, getting humanity’s first interplanetary sample-return effort well and truly underway.
Perseverance landed with a tiny helicopter buddy named Ingenuity, which was designed to show that aerial exploration is feasible on the Red Planet. Ingenuity is also back in action, completing its 14th Martian flight on Sunday (Oct. 24).
After its first five technology-demonstrating flights, Ingenuity shifted into an extended mission designed to showcase the scouting potential of Martian rotorcraft. The 4-pound (1.8 kilograms) chopper has recently been scouting terrain for Perseverance, which has driven 1.66 miles (2.67 kilometers) on Jezero’s floor to date.
Mike Wall is the author of “Out There” (Grand Central Publishing, 2018; illustrated by Karl Tate), a book about the search for alien life. Follow him on Twitter @michaeldwall. Follow us on Twitter @Spacedotcom or Facebook.