NASA’s Perseverance rover has traveled to strange and intriguing Martian terrain.
On Sunday (June 12), the size of a car Perseverance took a photo that could be mistaken for a still from an “Indiana Jones” movie. To the left of the painting, a boulder perches precariously on a slab of gray rock. And in the center right, a formation that looks a lot like an open-mouthed serpent’s head juts out from a layered reddish knoll.
If this were an “Indiana Jones” movie, this mound would be home to the lair of an evil snake-worshipping cult that Indy would have to take on, shivering all the while. (Indy hates snakesprobably whatever planet they inhabit.)
Related: 12 stunning photos of the Perseverance rover’s first year on Mars
The Perseverance team is no doubt delighted with this. March landscape, and for much less fanciful reasons. The layered mound appears to be part of the ancient river delta which once existed inside the 45 kilometer wide Jezero crater, where the six-wheeled robot and its small companion, the Ingenuity helicopter, landed in February 2021.
Perseverance has two main tasks: looking for signs of the past Martian life, if it ever existed, and collect and cache dozens of samples for future return to Earth. The ancient Jezero Delta is the best place for the rover to do such work, Perseverance team members said; indeed, the existence of the delta is the primary reason the rover was sent to Jezero.
Ingenuity helped Perseverance explore the crater floor, scout routes, and try to find interesting scientific targets for the rover. The helicopter has been doing such reconnaissance work since its primary mission, an initial 30-day, five-flight campaign designed to show that powered flight is possible on Mars despite the planet’s weak atmosphere.
Winter is approaching in the Jezero region, and the drop in temperatures is make life difficult for the little chopper, which has completed 29 flights to date. But the Ingenuity team has foreseen such difficulties and is optimistic that the rotorcraft will be able to continue flying for a little longer.
Mike Wall is the author of “The low (opens in a new tab)(Grand Central Publishing, 2018; illustrated by Karl Tate), a book about the search for extraterrestrial life. Follow him on Twitter @michaeldwall (opens in a new tab). Follow us on twitter @Spacedotcom (opens in a new tab) Or on Facebook (opens in a new tab).