You don’t even have to be a science fan or spaceflight junkie to know about NASA’s Mars rovers. It’s big news when the space agency sends fancy new hardware to Mars, and you’ve no doubt heard the names Sojourner, Opportunity, Curiosity, and Perseverance many times by now. What you might not know is how the rovers have evolved over time, particularly with regards to their size. Without anything to provide a sense of scale in the Mars “selfies” that the rovers have sent back over the years it’s hard to grasp just how much they’ve changed.
In a new photo from the shiny new Perseverance rover, we’re finally provided with something that shows how massive the latest robot really is. In a new rover selfie published by NASA, we get to see the Mars helicopter Ingenuity in the background, and while the perspective of the shot means the helicopter appears even smaller than it actually is, you can easily tell how huge Perseverance looks in comparison.
The first NASA rover to make it to Mars was Sojourner, which was one component of the Mars Pathfinder mission. It measured one foot in height and just over two feet long. The Mars Ingenuity helicopter isn’t all that different in terms of stature, standing 19 inches tall with a diameter (including the rotors) of 4 feet. Sure, one is an aircraft and the other is a rover, but their footprints are comparable.
Looking at this latest image, you can imagine Sojourner taking up roughly the same amount of space on the photo as the helicopter occupies. By comparison, the Perseverance rover looks absolutely massive… and it is.
Perseverance (which is roughly the same size as its immediate predecessor, Curiosity) stretches 9-and-a-half feet long and nearly 9 feet wide. Both rovers also stand a whopping 7 feet 3 inches in height. They’re both basically the size of a car, while Sojourner was more comparable to a microwave.
The rover is currently in a bit of a holding pattern as it waits for the Mars helicopter to carry out its various tests. The NASA team is anticipating that the helicopter will take flight sometime this week, becoming the first manmade aircraft to fly on a planet other than Earth. It’s pretty exciting stuff and it will definitely be exciting, but for now, the high-tech rover has to sit and wait for its tiny partner to take the spotlight for a bit.
Once the helicopter’s tests are done, Perseverance will be cut loose to explore the Jezero impact crater where it landed and hopefully make some interesting discoveries. The flight tests are expected to last roughly 30 days, and NASA will try to use Perseverance as a cameraman to capture the flight(s) and landings while also collecting data from the helicopter itself.