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The Perseverance rover is collecting the first sample from Mars for a new science campaign


This image shows the rocky outcrop that the Perseverance science team named Berea after NASA’s Mars rover extracted a rocky core and scraped a circular swath. Image captured by the rover’s Mastcam-Z instrument on March 30, 2023. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/ASU/MSSS

NASA’s rover excavated and stored the first sample from the mission’s latest science drive on Thursday, March 30. With each campaign, the team explores and studies a new area. In this rover, the rover explores the upper portion of the Jezero Crater Delta. Perseverance has collected a total of 19 samples and three witness tubes, and recently deposited 10 tubes as a backup cache on Mars as part of NASA-ESA’s (European Space Agency) Mars Sample Return campaign.

Scientists want to study Martian samples using powerful laboratory equipment on Earth to look for signs of ancient microbial life and better understand the water cycle that shaped the surface and interior of Mars.

This latest sample, from a rock the science team calls “Perea,” is the 16th grain of the mission’s rock (there are also samples of regolith — or broken rock and dust — as well as the Martian atmosphere; Read more about samples). The scientific team believes that Berea was formed from rock deposits carried by an ancient river downstream to this site. This could mean that the material could have come from an area far beyond the boundaries of Jezero Crater, which is one reason the team finds the rock so promising.

“The second reason is that the rock is rich in carbonates,” said Katie Stack Morgan, deputy project scientist for Perseverance at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Southern California. “Carbonate rocks on Earth could be good at preserving fossilized life forms. If biosignatures are present in this part of Jezero Crater, it could be a rock like this one that can keep its secrets.”

This animation shows NASA’s Mars Advances rover collecting a rock sample from an outcrop the science team calls “Perea” using a drill bit at the end of its robotic arm. The images were captured by one of the rover’s forward hazard cameras. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

Climate puzzle

One big puzzle is how the Martian climate worked back when this region was covered in liquid water. Because carbonates are formed due to chemical reactions in liquid water, they can provide scientists with a long-term record of changes in the planet’s climate. By studying the carbonates in the Berea sample, the science team can help fill in the gaps.

“The heart of Berea highlights the beauty of the rover missions,” said Ken Farley, Perseverance project scientist, of the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena. “Perseverance’s mobility allowed us to collect igneous samples from the relatively flat crater floor during the first expedition, and then move to the base of the crater delta, where we found fine-grained sedimentary rocks deposited at the bottom of a dry lake. Now we are sampling a geological site where we find boulders. A coarse-grained sediment deposited in a river. With such a diversity of environments to monitor and collect, we are confident that these samples will allow us to better understand what happened here in Jezero Crater billions of years ago.”

The Perseverance rover is collecting the first sample from Mars for a new science campaign

This image shows the rocky core of Berea inside NASA’s Mars rover drill. Each core the rover takes is about the size of a piece of classroom chalk: 0.5 inches (13 mm) in diameter and 2.4 inches (60 mm) long. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/ASU/MSSS

With this last sample stored safely in a sample tube in the rover’s belly, the six-wheeled rover will continue climbing the Jezero sedimentary fan toward the next bend in the dry riverbed, a site the science team dubs “Castell Henllys.”

the quote: Perseverance collects first Mars sample for new science campaign (2023, April 1) Retrieved April 1, 2023 from https://phys.org/news/2023-04-perseverance-rover-mars-sample-science.html

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