NASA's Perseverance rover has now called the Red Planet home for 100 Martian days.
The car-sized Perseverance and its little helicopter buddy Ingenuity landed together inside Mars' Jezero Crater on Feb. 18. That makes today (June 1) the 100th Martian day, or "sol," for the robotic duo. (One sol lasts about 24 hours and 40 minutes, slightly longer than an Earth day.)
The first 100 sols have been action-packed. For example, Perseverance has already tested all of its cameras and scientific instruments, beamed home more than 75,000 images, captured the first-ever true audio on the Martian surface, supported and documented Ingenuity's historic flight campaign, generated oxygen from the carbon dioxide-dominated Martian atmosphere and begun traveling to its first "exploration zone," the rover team wrote in a Twitter post today (opens in new tab). (The oxygen generation comes courtesy of an instrument called MOXIE that's designed to demonstrate tech that could help humanity get a foothold on Mars in the future.)
100 sols are just the beginning, however as there's a lot more excitement to come. Perseverance has just started to focus on its own science mission, which will last at least one Mars year, or 687 Earth days. That mission has two main goals: to hunt for signs of ancient Mars life and collect and cache dozens of samples for future return to Earth.
Jezero is a great place to do such work, mission team members have said: The 28-mile-wide (45 kilometers) crater hosted a big lake and a river delta billions of years ago.
100 days (sols) on Mars, and feeling productive: ✅ Tested all cameras & instruments✅ Returned 75,000+ pics✅ Deployed #MarsHelicopter & captured its flights✅ Recorded sounds of Mars✅ Extracted oxygen from atmosphere✅ Started south to first exploration zone Onward. pic.twitter.com/ER5vWebqpbJune 1, 2021
Ingenuity's work isn't done, either. The 4-lb. (1.8 kilograms) chopper aced its month-long, five-flight technology-demonstrating campaign and has embarked upon an extended mission designed to showcase the potential of rotorcraft to serve as scouts for Mars rovers and human explorers.
Ingenuity performed the first flight of this extended mission on May 22, encountered its first patch of rough Red Planet air in the process: The helicopter suffered a glitch that briefly interrupted the flow of photos from its navigation camera to its onboard computer. But Ingenuity powered through the anomaly, landing safely near its designated touchdown site.
Mike Wall is the author of "Out There (opens in new tab)" (Grand Central Publishing, 2018; illustrated by Karl Tate), a book about the search for alien life. Follow him on Twitter @michaeldwall. Follow us on Twitter @Spacedotcom or Facebook.