NASA Perseverance rover kicks off its first big Mars science project

NASA's Perseverance rover has left its landing site and is officially starting its scientific mission, according to the space agency. Until June 1, which is when the rover left the Octavia E. Butler landing site, NASA's Perseverance team spent their time testing the rover's various systems and using the rover as part of its Ingenuity helicopter test flights.

Perseverance's scientific campaign will kick off with the rover driving to a 'scenic overlook' where it will be able to survey Jezero Crater's oldest geologic features, NASA explains. The first few weeks will also be spent bringing Perseverance's sampling and automatic navigation systems online, wrapping up the commissioning phase to get the ball rolling.

Perseverance arrived on Mars back in February and has since spent weeks collecting data. According to NASA, the rover had taken more than 75,000 images by June 1, as well as multiple audio recordings on the Red Planet. The Perseverance team already tested some of the rover's key technologies, including the MOXIE instrument, and the rover was a key part of monitoring NASA's Ingenuity test flights.

With that out of the way, Perseverance will spend the next several months investigating a 1.5-square-mile section of Jezero Crater's floor. Among other things, Perseverance will collect samples that'll be packaged up and deposited for a future collection and return mission, bringing the materials back to Earth for study.

As well, Perseverance will test new technologies and gather measurement data that may help bolster future Mars missions involving robots and humans. Two particular geologic features will get most of Perseverance's attention, including the Crater Floor Fractured Rough and the Séítah. NASA already has a route for this effort planned, noting that its 'map' includes possible obstacles, optional turnoffs, and places that may be more interesting than others.