Perseverance

Mars 2020: Remarkable maps are guiding the mission

NASA

Perseverance, NASA's newest Red Planet rover, was launched into space on Thursday.

It is now on a seven-month journey to Mars.

NASA/Joel Kowsky

NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS/JHU-APL

The plan is this: Perseverance will land at Jezero Crater on February 18, 2021.

Then it will collect samples to send back to Earth — and hunt for signs of ancient life.

Like any good explorer, Perseverence will be equipped with a map.

In this case, the map is arguably the most precise map of Mars that's ever existed.

This "map" is actually a set of maps created by the USGS Astrogeology Science Center.

Perseverance will use these maps as part of its "Terrain Relative" Navigation system. This will ensure the rover lands safely and will guide its exploration.

"These maps will help the Perseverance mission unlock the mysteries of the red planet's past and guide future missions."

— USGS director and former NASA astronaut Jim Reilly

The first map is a high-resolution map that details the surface hazards at the landing site.

Here's a section of it.

USGS

The second map is a lower resolution map that includes the landing site and surrounding terrain.

Here's a slice of it.

USGS

Together, the maps will help Perseverance safely explore the site.

They are based on images collected by the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter's Context Camera and the High-Resolution Imaging Science Experiment (HiRISE) camera.

NASA chose Jezero Crater from more than 60 candidates.

With an ancient lake-delta system and 3.6-billion-year-old landforms, the hope is that Jezero is where we'll find signs of long-dead organisms.

But the site also is complete with boulders, crater impacts, cliffs, and sand ripples that can trap a rover.

The hope that is these maps will help Perseverance navigate these challenges.

Want to learn more about Perseverance?

Here are 20 facts about the 2020 Mars mission.

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