NASA’s Perseverance rover has grabbed another rock that may hold clues to whether there is life on Mars.
“Exciting news: Not only have I recently retrieved a new rock core (#11), but plans are coming to fruition to bring these samples back to Earth,” said the Rover of Perseverancecount of tweeted (opens in a new tab) Monday.
NASA has reimagined the Mars sample-return mission to make Perseverance the primary sample-collection rover, abandoning previous plans to use a European Space Agency recovery rover, the agency announced last week. As a backup, NASA will instruct two new helicopters to collect the samples themselves.
Also last week, NASA officials told reporters that the 11th rover sample is sedimentary rock that may contain biomarkers or indications of life. Although Perseverance could perform preliminary analyzes on its samples, it couldn’t take many instruments with it to Mars, so scientists are eager to bring the caches back to Earth for more detailed analysis.
Hence the sample return mission, which is a joint effort between NASA and the European Space Agency (ESA) and is scheduled to launch on the Red Planet in 2028. In the meantime, Perseverance will prepare samples that ‘she will collect in Jezero Crater and find a ideal location where the sample return mission might land.
After the sample return mission lands, Perseverance will carry samples to a small rocket called the Mars Ascent Vehicle (MAV). The rocket will launch the samples to an orbiter which will relay the rocks to Earth for analysis by scientists.
Perseverance contains 43 test tubes, 38 of which should be filled with samples. The rover team is careful to pick up the most promising examples from the collection area so as not to waste valuable cargo space.
The mission landed on Mars in February 2021 and completed its first hit in September 2021. He is currently examining a river delta this may include traces of past life in the area, according to previous briefings with Perseverance officials.