JUL 22, 2021 7:03 AM PDT

On Mars, the Perseverance Rover is Set to Acquire Its First Sample

WRITTEN BY: Carmen Leitch

Some of the special features of NASA's Perseverance Rover involve performing some scientific experiments. One of its missions is to try to find evidence of microbial life that may have once existed on Mars. As a first step, it has to collect a sample of Martian rock and perform a geological analysis. Future missions will hopefully transport that material back to Earth as well.

NASA's Mars 2020 Perseverance rover is onboard this United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket as it launched on July 30, 2020 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station. The Perseverance rover is part of NASA's Mars Exploration Program. / Photo Credit: NASA/Joel Kowsky

Perseverance touched down on the Red Planet on February 18, 2021, in Jezero Crater. On June 1, it started to explore a 1.5-square-mile (4-square-kilometer) area in the crater that scientists suspect contains exposed bedrock, some of which may be Mars' oldest. Perseverance will focus on an area called the "Cratered Floor Fractured Rough."

It will take Perseverance much longer to gather a sample than Neil Armstrong did; when he walked on the Moon, he spent a little over three and a half minutes picking up the first Moon sample. The rover is expected to take about eleven days to take its first sample, because it has to get the instructions from Earth, hundreds of millions of miles away.

Perseverance will use the Sampling and Caching System to retrieve the sample by drilling into the planet's surface. It will be collected in a coring bit, and images will be taken so the NASA team knows exactly where the location is taken. A second sample will be taken from a different place in the same general area.

The researchers want to get a "geological twin" sample so a detailed examination will take place on site. "On the geologic double, first we use an abrading bit to scrape off the top layers of rock and dust to expose fresh, unweathered surfaces, blow it clean with our Gas Dust Removal Tool, and then get up close and personal with our turret-mounted proximity science instruments SHERLOC [Scanning Habitable Environments with Raman & Luminescence for Organics & Chemicals], PIXL [Planetary Instrument for X-ray Lithochemistry], and WATSON [Wide Angle Topographic Sensor for Operations and eNgineering]," said science campaign co-lead Vivian Sun, from NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Southern California.

"Not every sample Perseverance is collecting will be done in the quest for ancient life, and we don't expect this first sample to provide definitive proof one way or the other," noted Perseverance project scientist Ken Farley of Caltech.

The researchers expect that this work will tell us more about the geology of Mars.

"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 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," added Farley.

Sources: Phys.org via NASA

About the Author
BS
Experienced research scientist and technical expert with authorships on over 30 peer-reviewed publications, traveler to over 70 countries, published photographer and internationally-exhibited painter, volunteer trained in disaster-response, CPR and DV counseling.
You May Also Like
JAN 17, 2022
Cell & Molecular Biology
'Space Anemia' is Due to an Accelerated Loss of Red Blood Cells
JAN 17, 2022
'Space Anemia' is Due to an Accelerated Loss of Red Blood Cells
When astronauts go to space, many of them become anemic; they lose red blood cells. It's been suggested that space anemi ...
JAN 28, 2022
Chemistry & Physics
The Global Search for Dark Matter
JAN 28, 2022
The Global Search for Dark Matter
A global collective of researchers has published its first study on its search for dark matter. Led by the PRISMA+Cluste ...
MAR 07, 2022
Space & Astronomy
No, We Did Not Find a Flower on Mars
MAR 07, 2022
No, We Did Not Find a Flower on Mars
Recently, NASA’s Curiosity Mars rover snapped a photograph of a flower-like rock artifact on the surface of Mars. ...
MAY 06, 2022
Chemistry & Physics
Earth's Atmosphere: A Possible Contributor to the Water on the Moon?
MAY 06, 2022
Earth's Atmosphere: A Possible Contributor to the Water on the Moon?
NASA is working towards landing humans on the Moon in 2024, the first visit in the 21st century. This time the crew ...
MAY 07, 2022
Space & Astronomy
Classifying exoplanet atmospheres FTW!
MAY 07, 2022
Classifying exoplanet atmospheres FTW!
Those who have watched Star Trek have undoubtedly heard the Enterprise crew refer to planets by different classes regard ...
MAY 11, 2022
Space & Astronomy
Experience a Total Lunar Eclipse Over the Evening of Sunday, May 15th
MAY 11, 2022
Experience a Total Lunar Eclipse Over the Evening of Sunday, May 15th
For the first time in almost a full year, residents of Earth will be able to observe a total lunar eclipse – a per ...
Loading Comments...