NASA’s Perseverance rover completes three years on Mars on February 18, 2024

Happy landiversary, Perseverance rover!

NASA’s Perseverance rover completed three years on Mars on February 18, 2024, since its landing.

In three years, the rover has collected 23 samples, surpassed 1,000 sols (Martian days), traveled more than 15 miles (24.8 km), and captured thousands of photos of the Mars planet.

Later in the early 2030s, NASA, with the collaboration of ESA (European Space Agency), will bring these samples back to Earth through the “Mars Sample Return” mission for detailed study.

An illustration of NASA's Perseverance rover landing on February 18, 2021
An illustration of NASA’s Perseverance rover landing on February 18, 2021. (Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech)

The rover, along with its companion Ingenuity helicopter, was launched on July 30, 2020, and landed on the Jezero Crater of Mars on February 18, 2021.

NASA chose the area of Jezero Crater for the landing of Perseverance rover because scientists believe the area was once flooded with water and was home to an ancient river delta. 28 miles (45 kilometers) wide Jezero Crater is located just north of the Martian equator.

The remains of an ancient river delta in Mars' Jezero Crater where the Perseverance rover landed
The remains of an ancient river delta in Mars’ Jezero Crater where the Perseverance rover landed. ESA’s Mars Express orbiter spacecraft captured the image from Mars orbit. View the rover’s current location on an interactive map. (Image credit: ESA/DLR/FU-Berlin)

Currently, the rover is only operational on the Martian surface because its companion helicopter is not able to fly in the Martian air.

The companion Ingenuity helicopter last flew in the Martian air on January 18, 2024. On this day, during its 72nd flight, one of its rotor blades was damaged, and NASA announced the retirement of the helicopter on January 25, 2024.

The Perseverance Rover's Mastcam-Z camera spotted the Ingenuity Mars helicopter sitting alone on Martian sand dunes on February 4, 2024
The Perseverance rover captured its companion helicopter on February 4, 2024, which is sitting on the final resting place on Mars (raw image). (Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/ASU)

As a tribute to the helicopter, NASA named the final resting place of the helicopter “Valinor Hills,” meaning “the Undying Lands.” The name is inspired by the fictional location in J.R.R. Tolkien’s fantasy novels, which include “The Lord of the Rings” trilogy.

Currently, the Perseverance rover is exploring one of the most interesting parts of the mission, called the margin carbonate unit, an area on the edge of Jezero Crater with strong signatures of carbonate minerals.

It’s a special rock unit that played a pivotal role in selecting Jezero as the landing site for the mission.

According to the statement from NASA, “On Earth, carbonates typically form in the shallow shoals of freshwater or alkaline lakes. It’s hypothesized that this might be the case for the margin carbonate unit on Mars too—over 3 billion years ago, the waters of a lake in Jezero crater might have lapped against its shores, depositing this carbonate layer.” 

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Ashim

Ashim Chandra Sarkar founded Space & Telescope in 2022. He holds a M.Sc. in physics and has five years of research experience in optical astronomy. His passion for astronomy inspired him to open this website. He is responsible for the editorial vision of spaceandtelescope.com.

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