NASA’s Perseverance rover has now collected a dozen Martian rocks.
The car-sized Perseverance drilled out and sealed up its twelfth rock pattern on Wednesday (Aug. 3), mission group members announced via Twitter (opens in new tab) right now (Aug. 5) — its fourth such operation in lower than a month.
In February 2021, Perseverance landed with NASA’s tiny Ingenuity helicopter on the ground of the 28-mile-wide (45 kilometers) Jezero Crater, which harbored an enormous lake and a river delta billions of years in the past. The six-wheeled rover is trying to find indicators of historical Mars life and bagging up dozens of samples for future return to Earth, amongst different duties.
The primary eight rock samples that Perseverance collected — from September 2021 to March of this yr — have been volcanic in origin, in keeping with the mission team’s sample log (opens in new tab). However the final 4, which have been gathered between July 7 and Wednesday, all come from sedimentary rocks.
As that change suggests, Perseverance is now exploring a remnant of the delta, analyzing layered rock formations that constructed up over time as silt fell out of Jezero’s historical river. Such deposits are extra doubtless than volcanic ones to harbor natural compounds and different potential indicators of Mars life, if it ever existed, Perseverance group members have stated. So it is not shocking that the sample-collecting tempo has now picked up.
Perseverance carries a complete of 43 pattern tubes, 38 of which may be crammed with Martian rock and grime. The opposite 5 are “witness tubes,” which is able to assist the mission group decide which supplies, if any, in collected samples could also be contaminants from Earth.
Perseverance has now sealed up 15 of these 43 tubes. Twelve comprise rock cores, one holds Martian air, and the opposite two are witness tubes. (The “atmospheric pattern” was sealed within the aftermath of Perseverance’s abortive first rock seize, an August 2021 try that failed when the drilled material crumbled to bits.)
These tubes will probably be dropped at Earth by a joint NASA-European Area Company (ESA) marketing campaign, maybe as early as 2033. The structure of that marketing campaign modified just lately; NASA and ESA determined to eliminate an ESA-provided “fetch rover” and rely as a substitute on Perseverance and, if wanted, two Ingenuity-like helicopters to ship the pattern tubes to the NASA rocket that may launch them off the Martian floor.
Mike Wall is the writer of “Out There (opens in new tab)” (Grand Central Publishing, 2018; illustrated by Karl Tate), a e book concerning the seek for alien life. Comply with him on Twitter @michaeldwall (opens in new tab). Comply with us on Twitter @Spacedotcom (opens in new tab) or on Facebook (opens in new tab).