‘A historic second’: NASA Perseverance rover collects first ever Mars rock pattern

NASA’s Perseverance rover has confirmed it: There’s Martian rock in that tube!


NASA’s Perseverance rover, presently rolling round a dried out lakebed on the floor of Mars, has accomplished the primary, vital step in a decade-long mission to return items of Mars to Earth. On the a hundred and ninetieth day of its mission “Percy,” because the rover is affectionately identified, overcame earlier sampling issues and snatched a core of rock, barely thicker than a pencil, from Mars’ floor.

On Sept. 1, the area company introduced knowledge had arrived from the Mars rover indicating it had efficiently obtained a core from a briefcase-sized rock often known as “Rochette.” However the staff, ever the diligent scientists, needed to be “additional sure” that was the case. To make certain, the rover would want to take a number of images of the drill system with one among its cameras and get a number of extra pictures of the rock pattern it had drilled.

The primary pictures beamed again to Earth appeared to point out rock had been efficiently snatched. Nonetheless, after an operation to vibrate the drill bit, a second spherical of pictures had been taken. The solar, nevertheless, was not enjoying properly with Percy. The lighting situations had been too poor to verify precisely what was within the tube — and the staff needed to be doubly certain.

On Saturday, they bought their want.

Adam Steltzner, NASA chief engineer on the mission, tweeted his congratulations on Sep. 4. “We bought it,” he wrote

The early pictures present a rust-red sediment that might be iron-rich minerals, in response to Steven Ruff, a planetary geologist at Arizona State College and creator of YouTube channel Mars Man. Percy’s touchdown web site in Jezero Crater was as soon as house to an awesome physique of water and its two sampling makes an attempt are already revealing a few of the geologic historical past of Mars. “Each of these rock targets that they’ve interrogated look completely different than actually something that we’ve seen anyplace else on Mars,” Ruff says.


The rock core is seen within the middle ring, locked away contained in the titanium assortment tube. This picture was taken on Sept. 6, 2021 simply earlier than Percy capped and sealed the pattern away.


Getting the Martian rock core within the sampling tube is like inserting a letter in an envelope. The subsequent step is for Perseverance to course of, seal and stamp that envelope and get it able to ship. Perseverance has 43 of those envelopes and might accumulate dozens of various rock samples. The variety shall be key — enabling the science staff to check rocks from throughout Jezero crater, studying extra about Mars’ historical past and, probably, whether or not life existed on the planet. 

On Monday, NASA introduced the rover had saved the pattern in its inside, locked away in an hermetic titanium tube. (I’m certain this may turn out to be a trivia query sooner or later so, for reference, the very first pattern was saved in tube quantity 266). This was the second the staff was ready for, one final maneuver required to point out the robotic’s advanced sampling mechanism labored. And it labored flawlessly.

“For all of NASA science, that is actually a historic second,” stated Thomas Zurbuchen, NASA’s affiliate administrator for science, on Monday.    

The gathering is an element 1 of essentially the most elaborate and sophisticated mail run of all time.

Percy intends to depart these titanium tube-letters scattered throughout the floor of Mars for a mail provider to gather at a later date. The important thing difficulty right here is: The mail provider hasn’t even been constructed but.

NASA and the European House Company plan to ship a Martian lander and pattern assortment rover to the floor of Mars in 2026. The rover (our mail provider on this prolonged metaphor) will roll out, collect up Percy’s tubes and place them in its mailvan — a rocket sure for Earth. Someday in early 2030, Percy’s mail will lastly attain its supposed recipient, offered every part goes in response to plan.

Ought to the mail make it house, it will be the primary time people have returned supplies from one other planet. 

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