Jul 27, 2021 - Science

NASA's Perseverance rover gets busy on Mars

Mars seen by Perseverance

Mars seen by Perseverance. Photo: NASA/JPL-Caltech/ASU/MSSS

NASA's Perseverance rover on Mars is about to collect its first rock sample from the Red Planet.

Why it matters: The space agency wants to send a future mission to collect that sample and others Perseverance caches for a return to Earth where they can be analyzed by high-powered tools.

Details: Some of these samples are expected to be chosen because they may contain preserved signs of ancient life within them, but this first sample likely won't.

  • "While the rocks located in this geologic unit are not great time capsules for organics, we believe they have been around since the formation of Jezero Crater and [will be] incredibly valuable to fill gaps in our geologic understanding of this region — things we’ll desperately need to know if we find life once existed on Mars," Perseverance project scientist Ken Farley, of Caltech, said in a statement.
  • NASA expects Perseverance will collect its sample within the next couple of weeks and it will do some reconnaissance work to make sure the rover is gathering exactly the kind of sample scientists are hoping for on this first go.

How it works: As part of Perseverance’s survey of the area, the rover will take detailed images so that mission managers can pick a geological target similar to the one they want to sample and use it as additional data for studying the sample they extract.

  • "The idea is to get valuable data on the rock we are about to sample by finding its geologic twin and performing detailed in situ analysis," Vivian Sun, of the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, said in the statement.
  • Once survey and analysis are done, Perseverance will take a Martian day to charge its battery and then collect and store the sample.
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