On February 18th, 2021, the Perseverance rover landed in the Jezero crater on Mars. Shortly thereafter, it powered up some of the scientific instruments it will use to conduct science operations and search for potential evidence of past life. One such instrument is the Mars Environmental Dynamics Analyzer (MEDA), which turned on for 30 minutes and issued the rover’s first weather report from Mars.
The forecast? Bitter Cold! Basically, the temperature was lower than what you’d expect on a harsh and windy winter’s night here on Earth! According to the data the rover sent back, which was received by mission controllers at 05:25 P.M. EST (08:25 P.M. PST), the local temperature around the Octavia E. Bulter landing in the Jezero crater was -20 °C (- 4 °F) when MEDA started recording, then dropped to -25.6 °C (-14 °F) within 30 minutes.
On April 3rd, the Mars Ingenuity helicopter was removed from its carbon-fiber shield on the Perseverance rover’s belly. On Sunday, April 11th, it will make its first attempt at a powered, controlled flight, becoming the first aircraft to operate on another planet. In the meantime, Ingenuity accomplished another major milestone as it survived its first full night on the Martian surface.
On March 4th, 2021, the Perseverance rover began driving from its landing site on Mars. During this drive, the rover covered 6.5 meters (21.3 feet) and conducted some basic maneuvers and instrument tests. In keeping with a NASA tradition where mission controllers give unofficial nicknames to various geological features, the team also consecrated the landing site by naming it after a famous science fiction author.
Henceforth, the site where Perseverance landed will be known as the “Octavia E. Butler Landing,” in honor of the groundbreaking science fiction author who passed away in 2006 (she was 59 years old). Butler is renowned for being the first African-American woman to win both the Hugo and Nebula Award and was the first science fiction author honored with a MacArthur Fellowship (in 1995).