NASA’s Perseverance tries to collect Mars samples again after the first rocks fall to pieces

After NASA’s Perseverance rover ran empty earlier this month in its effort to collect rock samples from Mars, it’s ready for another round.

The US space agency said Thursday that the rover will abrade or scrape a rock nicknamed “Rochelle” with a tool on its robotic arm.

By scraping the rock, researchers can look inside to see if it’s worth taking a sample, which would be “slightly thicker than a pencil,” NASA wrote in a statement. pronunciation.

After NASA’s Perseverance rover ran empty earlier this month in its effort to collect rock samples from Mars, it’s ready for another round. The US space agency said Thursday that the rover will abrade or scrape a rock nicknamed “Rochelle” (pictured) with a tool on its robotic arm.

If the team decides the rock is good to go, the sampling process would begin next week.

The samples would go into one of the rover’s 43 titanium sample tubes.

The rover carries 43 titanium sample tubes and explores Jezero Crater looking for signs of ancient life

The rover carries 43 titanium sample tubes and explores Jezero Crater looking for signs of ancient life

Since Perseverance tried — and failed — to catch its first rock sample on Aug. 6, it’s driven 1,493 feet to a ridge known as “Citadelle,” a “steep spot” that overlooks Jezero Crater.

The ridge is topped by a layer of rock that can withstand wind, which could be a good sign that the Martian rock could hold up while drilling.

“There are potentially older rocks in the ‘South Séítah’ region ahead of us, so having this younger sample can help us reconstruct the entire timeline of Jezero,” NASA JPL mission scientist Vivian Sun said in the statement.

Earlier this month, NASA said the first rock sample turned into powder/small fragments after being picked up initially.

The Jezero Crater was once filled with water, and NASA is navigating the area with the rover looking for fossilized signs of ancient life.

Ken Farley, Perseverance project scientist at Caltech, said the team eventually wants to return samples to Earth to learn more about the Red Planet.

“By sending samples back to Earth, we hope to answer a number of scientific questions, including the composition of Mars’ atmosphere,” explains Farley.

By scraping the rock (center), Persverance lets researchers look inside to see if it's worth taking a sample, which would be

By scraping the rock (center), Persverance lets researchers look inside to see if it’s worth taking a sample, which would be “slightly thicker than a pencil.”

“That’s why we’re interested in an atmospheric sample along with rock samples.”

The Citadelle Ridge is probably a better area to collect a sample than the “Roubion” rock, the first attempt, Farley explained in a August 20 blog post.

‘The Citadelle boulders are good targets for another drilling attempt because they look very solid, a conclusion supported by the fact that they stand high in the landscape even after centuries of erosive action.

“They also have high scientific value in a potential sample suite on the crater floor. I expect we’ll pick a target on one of these boulders and start planning for our next drilling activity next week, with our next sample taking attempt around the end of the month.”

The rock sits on a ridge known as 'Citadelle' (blue, left of center) that overlooks Jezero Crater.  This annotated image shows the ground trail (marked in white) of NASA's Perseverance rover since it arrived on Mars

The rock sits on a ridge known as ‘Citadelle’ (blue, left of center) that overlooks Jezero Crater. This annotated image shows the ground trail (marked in white) of NASA’s Perseverance rover since it arrived on Mars

At Citadelle, Perseverance will use its underground radar – RIMFAX – to look at rock layers beneath the Martian surface.

“The top of the ridge will also be a great vantage point for Mastcam-Z to look for other potential rock targets in the area,” NASA added in a statement Thursday.

Once Perseverance has collected samples from Mars, it will drop them at a suitable location on the surface of Mars to be collected by a future retrieval mission, which is currently under development.

The multi-billion dollar project to return a piece of Mars to Earth involves three separate launches and is not expected to be successful until 2031.  The mission begins when Perseverance, NASA's new exploration rover, launches this summer

The multi-billion dollar project to bring a piece of Mars back to Earth involves three separate launches and is not expected to be successful until 2031. The mission begins when Perseverance, NASA’s new exploration rover, launches this summer

Currently, NASA and ESA are planning to launch two more spacecraft that would leave Earth in 2026 and reach Mars in 2028.

The first will deploy a small rover, which will make its way to Perseverance, pick up the filled sample tubes and transfer them to a “Mars-ascent vehicle” – a small rocket.

This rocket will fire – in the process becoming the first object to be launched from the surface of Mars – and place the container in orbit around Mars, meaning it will essentially float in space.

At this point, the third and final spacecraft involved in the tricky operation will maneuver itself next to the monster container, pick it up and fly back to Earth.

If the return to Earth’s atmosphere is successful, it will plunge to the ground at a Utah military training ground in 2031, meaning Mars’ samples won’t be studied for another 10 years.

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