Friday, February 19, 2021

The Mars Rover Tracking Map

Yesterday NASA's Perseverance rover landed successfully on Mars. NASA's 2020 Mars mission is to examine the geology of Mars looking for the biosignatures of past microbial life on the red planet. In order to carry out this mission the Perseverance rover is also equipped with the Ingenuity helicopter drone. The Ingenuity drone will be used to help scout for points of interest which the Perseverance rover will then investigate and study.

You can follow the progress of the Perseverance rover on Mars using NASA's Perseverance's Location interactive map. The map shows Perseverance's current location, showing where the rover landed yesterday in the Jazero Crater, about 8km from the crater's western boundary. Excitingly the map includes a button to turn on or off the rover's path, which suggests that the map will be used to show Perseverance's near real-time movements on Mars.

Also to the west of Perseverance's current location is the Neretva Vallis. This former river valley is where water once entered the Jazero Crater. About 40km east of Perseverance's landing site the Pliva Vallis is where that water flowed out of the crater. It is therefore believed that the Jazero Crater was once an open basin lake, a freshwater lake which could have been conducive to life.

You can learn more about the Jazero Crater and even explore its terrain for yourself on the amazing Jazero Explorer. The Jazero Explorer is a 3D map of the crater and its immediate surroundings. It is also an amazing story map which provides a fascinating introduction to the Perseverance landing site on Mars.

As you progress through the Jezero Explorer you are taken on a tour of the Perseverance landing site and the Jezero Crater. During this guided tour you can learn more about why the crater was chosen as the focus of the 2020 Mars mission. This tour includes information about the crater's geology, terrain, sediments, channels and river systems. One reason why Jazero was chosen for this mission is because the crater has been identified as one of the most promising environments to discover the biosignatures of past microbial life on Mars.

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