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NASA’s Perseverance rover has been exploring Jezero Crater for more than 217 Earth days (211 Martian days, or sols), and the dusty rocks there are beginning to tell their story – about a volatile young Mars flowing with lava and water.
That story, stretching billions of years into the past, is unfolding thanks in large part to the seven powerful science cameras aboard Perseverance. Able to home in on small features from great distances, take in vast sweeps of Martian landscape, and magnify tiny rock granules, these specialized cameras also help the rover team determine which rock samples offer the best chance to learn whether microscopic life ever existed on the Red Planet.
Altogether, some 800 scientists and engineers around the world make up the larger Perseverance team. That includes smaller teams, from a few dozen to as many as 100, for each of the rover’s cameras and instruments. And the teams behind the cameras must coordinate each decision about what to image.
“The imaging cameras are a huge piece of everything,” said Vivian Sun, the co-lead for Perseverance’s first science campaign at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Southern California. “We use a lot of them every single day for science. They’re absolutely mission-critical.”