Aug 31, 2021 - Science

NASA's Perseverance rover preps for next Mars rock sampling attempt

Perseverance's next target rock (center).
Perseverance's next target rock (center). Photo: NASA/JPL-Caltech

NASA's Perseverance rover is getting ready to make its second attempt to collect a rock sample on Mars.

Why it matters: One of the rover's main goals is to collect samples of interesting looking rocks — that may harbor signs of past life — on the Red Planet and store them for a future mission to collect and return to Earth.

Catch up quick: The rover's first try at collecting a sample on Aug. 6 didn't work as planned.

  • The rock the team attempted to drill into and place in a sample tube was too crumbly and fell apart when the rover went to retrieve it.
  • Perseverance has now driven to a new area where the rocks on offer for sampling look a bit more promising, and the rover has already scraped away part of its target rock to see if it would stand up to the sampling process.
  • "The ridge is capped with a layer of rock that appears to resist wind erosion, a sign that it’s more likely to hold up during drilling," NASA said in a statement.

What to watch: The sampling attempt using one of the 42 still viable tubes on the rover could happen as early as this week.

  • In order to make sure this sampling is successful, the team will have Perseverance use one of its cameras to snap a picture of the sampling tube before it's sealed to make sure it got a good sample of rock.

1 fun thing: The initial sampling attempt wasn't a total waste.

  • Perseverance managed to capture a sample of the Martian atmosphere in the tube, something NASA was planning to do at some point anyway, according to the space agency.

Go deeper: Movements on Mars unlock the Red Planet's interior

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