'Harbor Seal Rock' on Mars and other new sights intrigue Perseverance rover scientists - Space.com
Feb 26, 2021 1 min, 21 secs
18, kicking off an ambitious surface mission that will hunt for signs of ancient Mars life and collect samples for future return to Earth, among other tasks.

But the six-wheeled robot recently used its Mastcam-Z camera suite to capture a high-definition, 360-degree panorama of its surroundings, and that first taste has the mission team intrigued.

Live updates: NASA's Perseverance Mars rover mission?

For example, the zoomable panorama revealed a dark stone that the team has dubbed "Harbor Seal Rock," Mastcam-Z principal investigator Jim Bell, of Arizona State University's School of Earth and Space Exploration, said during a webcast discussion of the photo on Thursday (Feb. 25)?

This is one of the key jobs of Mastcam-Z and Perseverance's other cameras, Bell said — to spot interesting features that Perseverance can study in more detail with its spectrometers and other science instruments.

Deltas are good at preserving signs of life here on Earth, so the Perseverance team is eager for the rover to study and sample the remnants of that feature within Jezero.

And the delta is visible in the Mastcam-Z panorama; the cliffs that mark its edge are about 1.2 miles (2 kilometers) from Perseverance's landing site, Bell said.

For starters, it's the lowest-resolution panorama the Mastcam-Z team will construct.

Bell said that similar shots that are three times sharper will be assembled after Perseverance switches over to its surface-optimized software, a four-day process that's already underway!

Ingenuity's pioneering sorties — the first rotorcraft flights on a world beyond Earth — will likely take place this spring, and science and sampling are expected to begin in earnest in the summer, mission team members have said.

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