On September 6, the Mars Rover Perseverance drilled into a rock the size of a briefcase with his incredibly sophisticated sampling and capture system, then took a photo to commemorate the first Martian rock recovered as part of his mission.
After a brief confusion, scientists and space enthusiasts finally saw the photo which conclusively showed a Martian rock captured in the sample tube, and were able to celebrate a truly historic moment.
Two days later he drilled a few inches to the left in the same rock and captured another sample.
Perseverance explores the bottom of an ancient lake bed known as the Jezero Crater, where scientists believe the remains of ancient microbial life on Mars, if any, will be found.
“NASA has a history of setting and achieving ambitious goals, reflecting our nation’s commitment to discovery and innovation,” noted NASA Administrator Bill Nelson. “This is a momentous achievement and I look forward to seeing the incredible discoveries produced by Perseverance and our team.”
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August 7 attempt to drill in Martian regolith nothing captured, worrying scientists that their billion-dollar rover flew for 3.5 years to Mars only to return empty-handed.
“I’ve been on all of the Martian rover’s missions from the start, and this planet always teaches us what we don’t know about it,” said Jennifer Trosper, Project Manager for Perseverance. “One thing I have found is that it is not uncommon to have complications with complex activities for the first time.”
We know that there was an atmosphere and water on Mars billions of years ago, and if these conditions had remained long enough, there is a chance that life could regenerate itself.
Next stop after collecting samples from Jezero will be the fan-shaped delta of the ancient lake, a class of landscapes where life would explode with diversity and prosperity, at least on Earth. It has one of the best chances we have of finding microbial life forms. The delta could potentially contain clay, which quickly buries organic matter. If there is clay, there might be leftover life.
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Another opportunity will be the carbonate rocks, which were located in Jezero using data from the Mars orbiter, and which were shown on Earth to exquisitely preserve organic structures such as seashells.
Perseverance is expected to study the geography of Mars for a year or two, before depositing its samples at the landing site, where a fetch rover, which could be launched as early as 2026, will have to retrieve them.
It is scary to think that we are reporting on the collection of these samples now, but that we may have to wait 10 years for them to return to Earth.
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