NASA’s Perseverance Mars rover retrieves 8th rock sample from Red Planet


NASA’s state-of-the-art geological rover Red Planet continues its exploration of an ancient river delta now that its eighth rock sample is secured for future analysis.

“I put away my last rock core sample (#8!) and end there. I pack my bags and head for the dry river delta. Here we go,” the rover’s Twitter account. declared Monday (March 14).

The Perseverance rover is on a long-term quest to better understand the potential of Martian life. While other Mars missions search for signs of water, the rover goes a step further by caching the most promising rocks for a sample-return mission that NASA and its European counterpart intend to launch later this decade.

Related: 12 stunning photos of the Perseverance rover’s first year on Mars

Perseverance landed in February 2021 in the 45 kilometer wide Jezero Crater. Mission scientists believe that billions of years ago the crater contained a lake and a river delta, making it a rich hunting ground to sample for potential signs of ancient life.

Perseverance spent most of its first (earth) year on Mars exploring an area a bit south and west of its landing site. Now the rover is on its way to the touchdown zone to resume the search in the old delta.

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“There we will have the opportunity to study the sedimentary rock layers, clay minerals and rounded boulders washed away far beyond Jezero. These features are remnants of Jezero’s aquatic past and clear indicators of an ancient livable environment,” said Brad Garczynski, a collaborating student. at Purdue University, wrote on the official website Perseverance Blog March 4.

“If microbial life existed here in the past,” Garczynski continued, “this is one of the best places to look for it, because finely layered sludge may have buried and kept a record of that microbial activity.”

Perseverance has been on reconnaissance using its Mastcam-Z and SuperCam instruments to detect signs of the delta’s structure and minerals. Team members will use this data, along with orbital passes over the delta, to explore the path to perseverance in the weeks and months ahead.

Another helper was Ingenuity, the 4-pound (1.8-kilogram) helicopter that landed with Perseverance in 2021. Ingenuity now has 21 Mars flights under its belt, exceeding its original flight plan by four times. With Ingenuity’s ability to fly well proven, the small helicopter now serves as a scout for Perseverance activities.

The sample return mission, assuming things stay on track, could transport Perseverance’s carefully collected samples to Earth as early as 2031.

Follow Elizabeth Howell on Twitter @howellspace. Follow us on twitter @Spacedotcom or facebook.

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