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On Mars, a year of discoveries and surprises in pictures

Back in pictures on the first year of the Perseverance robot on the planet Mars where it looks for traces of life from the past.

It’s been a year since Perseverance roams the surface of Mars in search of ancient traces of life. On February 18, 2021, the spacecraft carrying the robot pierced the Martian atmosphere at nearly 20,000 km/h. In just seven minutes, engineers from the American Space Agency (Nasa) at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) managed to control the descent of the rover to make it touch the Martian rock. Since then, the robot, which is the size of an SUV, has been wandering around the crater of Jezero, in search of traces of life from the past.

From its earliest days, it managed to record sounds and transmit them to Earthlings. “It was one of the great discoveries of the year. No one had ever heard of Mars!” recalls Sylvestre Maurice, co-supervisor of SuperCam and astrophysicist at Irap at the University of Toulouse (CNRS/CNES). He is a regular on the red planet, where he has co-piloted the Curiosity robot with the Americans for nine years, thousands of kilometers away, in the Gale crater. Then, Perseverance set about collecting samples of Martian rocks. Seven in one year! Objective: to collect around forty well-chosen samples over six years. For another mission to bring them back to Earth, by the 2030s.

To read :“On Mars, we are at the dawn of exceptional discoveries”

He also remembers the historic flight of the Ingenuity helicopter, the rover’s pathfinder. But above all, the robot proved that the landing site had been well chosen when its camera showed that it was on an old lake, fed by a delta river, like the Mississippi or the Mekong… After its first steps at the bottom of the crater, Perseverance will now set sail for the delta. It is only two kilometers away, but he will have to go around a dune to reach it, by spring.

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