November 30, 2021

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NASA’s Mars Rover Is Back In Action After Two Weeks Of Silence

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It wasn’t a surprise when the Perseverance rover on Mars lost contact with Earth for two weeks, but what was no doubt a long wait for NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory is finally over.

The loss of contact was the result of a solar conjunction, a period of time during which the orbital paths of Earth and Mars left our sun positioned between the two planets. No direct line of sight means no communication until the conjunction is over.

The Perseverance rover’s Twitter account celebrated the restoration of contact with a little video giving us a driver’s seat view of the multi-billion dollar wheeled vehicle in motion.

The drive actually happened before the conjunction, which got underway in early October. In this extremely sped-up look at the almost 600-foot journey on Sept. 12 — each of the frames you see are about 30 seconds apart — you’re seeing what Perseverance did on its 200th Martian day.

A drive like this starts with the rover following commands sent over ahead of time by drivers on Earth, a NASA JPL post explains. That first stretch is crucial because it allows the rover to generate a 3D map of its surroundings that its autonomous AutoNav feature can then use to avoid hazards and keep Perseverance safe.

We also have some new sounds of Mars to listen to. NASA dropped a video on Monday explaining how Perseverance uses two microphones to maintain an audio record of the planet, with almost 5 hours captured so far. The video is more focused on a behind-the-scenes explanation of the technology and its importance to the mission, but you hear plenty of clips from the Red Planet itself.

The recordings are particularly notable because NASA simply hasn’t sent microphones to Mars before. So there’s much to learn: About the atmosphere and how sound moves on Mars, about what Martian rocks are made of (which has been highlighted before), and about how Perseverance’s instruments are functioning in this alien environment.

There’s also a whole mess of new photos that have been added to the rover’s image archive. You’re not going to see a lot of variety, but that’s Mars for you. It’s a rocky desert landscape and a planet that no human has ever visited. In fact, one of the main thrusts of the Perseverance mission is investigating the possibility that Mars once supported life in its distant past.

Still, if you think space stuff is cool and you’re here to see more of that space stuff, there’s a ton of it to look at in the Perseverance image archive, especially if it’s been a couple weeks since you last checked in.

Related video: Mars will kill you in ways you’d never imagine



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