NASA's Perseverance rover is taking its own wheel for Mars drives

NASA's Perseverance Rover is moving at a rapid pace on Mars because of technology that allows the robot to avoid problems on otherworldly drives.AutoNav is a navigation technology that maps terrain and plots routes, without the rover having to rely on Earth's guidance. AutoNav is four to five times as powerful as equivalent technology tested by NASA's Curiosity Mars rover. This means Perseverance will have the ability to travel more quickly and take more direct routes, which in turn will allow the rover do more science in a shorter time.NASA released the following statement: "We're going be able to reach places the scientists desire to go much faster," Jennifer Trosper (project manager for the rover) stated in a NASA statement. "Now, we can drive through these more complicated terrains instead of going around them. It's something we have never been able do before."Related: Mars helicopter Ingenuity spot Perseverance Rover from the air (photo).A Perseverance Rover image showing the robot's body, two its six wheels, and a host if tracks on Mars. This was taken on July 1, 2021. Image credit: NASA/JPL–CaltechAutoNav doesn't completely eliminate human drivers, but increases the autonomy of the rover where it is possible.Vandi Verma, senior engineer, planner, and driver at JPL stated in the same statement, "We have a capacity called 'thinking whilst driving.'" "The autonomous drive is being thought about by the rover while it's turning."The new rover also has other features that will increase its speed. Percy's wheels are wider in diameter and narrower in width, with a wavier tread pattern. This was designed by mission engineers to improve traction on Mars. Perseverance has a separate computer for navigation. The new rover's belly clearance makes it easier to explore more terrain.It's "a rover driver’s paradise."Perseverance's improvements mean that the rover can travel at 393 feet an hour (120 m), just over half the distance of a football field, compared to Curiosity who could only travel at 66 feet an hour (20 m). Perseverance would reach a top speed of 0.07 mph (0.12 km/h). Perseverance scientists believe that increasing rover speed is crucial because they hope to direct Perseverance to travel 9 miles (15 km) during its mission.This is exciting for Perseverance's scientists as well as for Perseverance's humans who help navigate the planet. They get to see more of the Red Planet's scenery at Jezero Crater.Verma stated, "Jezero's incredible." It's the perfect place for rover drivers. The 3D glasses allow you to see more terrain undulation. Sometimes I just stare at them for hours."Send Meghan Bartels an email at, or follow her Twitter @meghanbartels. Follow us on Facebook and Twitter @Spacedotcom