The rock core is now enclosed in an airtight titanium sample tube and may be retrieved in the future.
NASA’s Perseverance rover today completed collecting the first sample of Martian rock, a core from Jezero Crater slightly thicker than a pencil. Mission controllers at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in Southern California received data that confirmed this historic milestone.
The core is now enclosed in an airtight titanium sample tube, making it available for future retrieval. As part of the Mars Sample Return campaign, NASA and ESA (European Space Agency) are planning a series of future missions to bring the rover’s sample tubes back to Earth for further study. These samples would be the first set of scientifically identified and selected materials returned to our planet from another.
“NASA has a history of setting and achieving ambitious goals, reflecting our country’s commitment to discovery and innovation,” said NASA Administrator Bill Nelson. “This is a major achievement and I can’t wait to see the incredible discoveries produced by Persévérance and our team.
In addition to identifying and collecting rock and regolith (broken rock and dust) samples while looking for signs of ancient microscopic life, Perseverance’s mission includes studying the Jezero region to understand the geology and l ‘old habitability of the area, as well as to characterize the past climate.
“For all of NASA science, this is truly a historic moment,” said Thomas Zurbuchen, associate administrator for science at NASA headquarters in Washington. “Just as the Apollo Moon missions demonstrated the enduring scientific value of returning samples from other worlds for analysis here on our planet, so will we do with the samples that Perseverance collects as part of our Mars Sample Return program. Using the most sophisticated scientific instruments on Earth, we expect breathtaking discoveries in a wide range of scientific fields, including the exploration of whether life ever existed on Mars. “
The sample collection process began on Wednesday, September 1, when the rotary hammer drill at the end of Perseverance’s robotic arm dug into a flat Martian rock the size of a briefcase nicknamed “Rochette.”
After the coring process was completed, the arm maneuvered the corer, drill, and sample tube so that the rover’s Mastcam-Z camera instrument could image the contents of the still unsealed tube and transmit the results to the rover. Earth. After the mission controllers confirmed the presence of the cored rock in the tube, they sent a command to complete processing of the sample.
Today at 12:34 a.m. EDT, Perseverance transferred sample tube serial number 266 and its Martian cargo inside the rover to measure and image the rock core. He then hermetically sealed the container, took another image, and stored the tube.
“With over 3,000 coins, the sampling and caching system is the most complex mechanism ever to be sent to space,” said Larry D. James, acting director of JPL. “Our Perseverance team is delighted and proud to see the system working so well on Mars and to take the first step in returning samples to Earth. We also recognize that a global team of NASA, industry partners, universities and international space agencies have contributed and share in this historic success. “
First scientific campaign
Perseverance is currently exploring the rock outcrops and boulders of “Artuby”, a ridge line of over half a mile (900 meters) bordering two geological units believed to contain the deepest and oldest bedrock layers in the crater. Jezero.
“Getting the first sample to our credit is an important step,” said Ken Farley, scientist with the Caltech Perseverance Project. “When we collect these samples from Earth, they will tell us a lot about some of the early chapters in the evolution of Mars. But as fascinating as the contents of sample tube 266 are geologically, they will not tell the full story of this place. There is still a lot of Jezero crater to explore, and we will continue our journey in the months and years to come. “
The rover’s initial scientific foray, which spans hundreds of soils (Martian days), will be over when Perseverance returns to its landing site. At this point, Perseverance will have traveled between 1.6 and 3.1 miles (2.5 and 5 kilometers) and may have filled up to eight of its 43 sample tubes.
After that, Perseverance will travel north, then west, to the location of its second science campaign: the Jezero Crater Delta region. The delta is the fan-shaped remnant of where an ancient river met a lake in the crater. The region can be particularly rich in clay minerals. On Earth, such minerals can preserve fossilized signs of ancient microscopic life and are often associated with biological processes.
Learn more about perseverance
A key focus of Perseverance’s mission to Mars is astrobiology, including looking for signs of ancient microbial life. The rover will characterize the planet’s past geology and climate, pave the way for human exploration of the Red Planet, and be the first mission to collect and cache Martian rock and regolith.
Subsequent NASA missions, in cooperation with ESA, would send spacecraft to Mars to collect these sealed surface samples and return them to Earth for further analysis.
The Mars 2020 Perseverance mission is part of NASA’s Moon-to-Mars exploration approach, which includes Artemis missions to the Moon that will help prepare for the first human exploration mission to the Red Planet.
JPL, which is managed for NASA by Caltech in Pasadena, Calif., Built and manages the operations of the Perseverance rover.
To find out more about Perseverance:
Karen Fox / Alana Johnson
NASA Headquarters, Washington
301-286-6284 / 202-358-1501
[email protected] / [email protected]
Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Californie