The Perseverance Mars rover recently took a selfie, showing its tracks weaving through Martian dust and down to a boulder named Rochette. This is the area where the rover collected one of its recent samples from Mars, drilling into the rock to collect a small amount in its sample tubes.
Ultimately, the tubes will be collected by a future rover and brought back to Earth for study. In the image you can see the two drill holes in the rock where the rover took the samples.
In addition to taking charming selfies, Perseverance’s cameras are an essential part of its scientific mission. “Imaging cameras are an important part of everything,” said Vivian Sun, co-leader of the Perseverance First Science Campaign at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory. “We use a lot of it every day for science. They are absolutely essential to the mission.
The cameras include two navigation cameras and nine engineering cameras that help the rover find its way through the Martian landscape by enabling autonomous driving. These cameras were also responsible for capturing the rover’s first panoramic view of the Martian surface. They give a quick, low-resolution preview of what the rover is seeing, so more powerful cameras can be trained on targets of interest.
“The navigation camera data is really helpful in having these images available for targeted scientific monitoring with higher resolution instruments like SuperCam and Mastcam-Z,” Sun said.
SuperCam and Mastcam-Z are two of the rover’s instruments that include high-resolution cameras. Mastcam-Z cameras capture large overviews, such as panoramas or 3D images as well as high definition videos. The SuperCam instrument is used to target specific sites further afield by zooming in great detail to study mineralogy.
And to zoom in for very close-up shots, there is the WATSON (Wide Angle Topographic Sensor for Operations and Engineering) camera at the end of the rover’s robotic arm which can image rocks with a lot of details.
With these tools, researchers believe they still have the best chance of uncovering evidence of ancient microbial life on the planet. “Once we get close to the delta, where there should be very good potential for preserving signs of life, we have a very good chance of seeing something if it is there,” said Luther Beegle, principal investigator for the rover’s SHERLOC instrument. .
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