Perseverance rover flexes its arm on Mars for the 1st time

NASA's Perseverance rover has spent a busy two weeks settling into its new home on Mars, most recently flexing its robotic arm for the first time.

Perseverance touched down on the Red Planet on Feb. 18 to begin work looking for traces of ancient life and selecting rock samples for a future mission to carry to Earth's laboratories for much more thorough examination. But before "Percy" sets off on those scientific adventures, the car-sized robot must first warm up, so to speak, testing its components and confirming nothing was damaged during the perilous landing.

"This week I’ve been doing lots of health checkouts, getting ready to get to work," NASA officials wrote in an update from the rover's Twitter account posted on March 3. "I’ve checked many tasks off my list, including instrument tests, imaging, and getting my arm moving. Warming up for a marathon of science."

In photos: NASA's Mars Perseverance rover mission to the Red Planet

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For a formal update on Perseverance's first two weeks on Mars, NASA officials will hold a news conference Friday (March 5) at 3:30 p.m. EST (2030 GMT), which you can watch here on courtesy of NASA or directly on the agency's YouTube channel.

The robotic arm that Perseverance has now successfully moved for the first time on Mars unfurls to a total length of 7 feet (2.1 meters) and holds an elaborate collection of instruments.

Prime among those is the drill that will collect samples for a future mission to carry to Earth for more thorough examination, as well as the tools that will store those samples. The drill includes three different bits, depending on the rover's current task, whether facilitating rover science or collecting and storing samples. The arm also carries three key analytic instruments that the rover needs to be able to maneuver up close to target rocks.

Testing the arm's movement was a key milestone that the rover needed to reach within the first 30 Martian days, or sols, after landing (one sol lasts a little more than one Earth day). Once this commissioning phase wraps up successfully, Perseverance will begin preparing for the test flights of its robotic companion, a small helicopter dubbed Ingenuity, which will attempt to make the first powered flight on another planet.

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Meghan Bartels
Senior Writer

Meghan is a senior writer at and has more than five years' experience as a science journalist based in New York City. She joined in July 2018, with previous writing published in outlets including Newsweek and Audubon. Meghan earned an MA in science journalism from New York University and a BA in classics from Georgetown University, and in her free time she enjoys reading and visiting museums. Follow her on Twitter at @meghanbartels.