NASA’s Mars rover is about to embark on a very special task

NASA’s Perseverance Mars rover is getting ready to collect its first rock sample that is set to become the first Martian material to be delivered to Earth.

The rover, which landed on the Red Planet in spectacular fashion in April, is spending much of its time testing its systems and assisting the Ingenuity Mars helicopter by relaying flight instructions to the trailblazing aircraft. It also had time to take a charming selfie.

A patch of land on Mars is set to be discovered by NASA's Perseverance rover.
Persistence will search for the area marked in the image above. NASA/JPL-Caltech/ASU/MSSS

But NASA’s most advanced rover to date is about to land and dust off as it works to remove a rock sample as part of scientists’ efforts to find out if the planet ever harbored some form of life. supported or not.

In the coming days, the six-wheeled rover will head to a location inside Mars’ Jezero crater called the cratered floor fractured rough. Covering an area of ​​about 1.5-square-mile (4-sq-km), NASA says it may have exposed Jezero’s deepest and most ancient layers.

Perseverance will begin its work by analyzing a small patch of light colored paver stone in the exploration site. If it is deemed to be of more interest by scientists, Persistence will then drill a small sample of rock “about the size of a piece of chalk”.

Once stored inside the rover, other instruments will be able to analyze it further. Persistence will then deposit the sample in a special container for collection by future missions that will take it to Earth where scientists will use even more advanced analytical instruments.

While many observers of the mission will be hoping that the sample will provide evidence of ancient life on a distant planet, Perseverance project scientist Ken Farley cautioned against such expectations.

“Not every specimen persistence will be collected in search of ancient life, and we do not expect that this first specimen will provide definitive evidence in one way or another,” Farley said. “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 are incredibly valuable for filling gaps in our geologic understanding of the region.” – The things we’ll desperately need to find out if life ever existed on Mars.”

Comparing the ensuing sample collection to another note in 1969, NASA’s associate administrator of science, Thomas Zurbuchen, said: “When Neil Armstrong took the first sample from the Sea of ​​Tranquility 52 years ago, he started a process again. Write down what humanity knew about the Moon. I sincerely hope that the first samples of Perseverance from Jezero Crater, and those that follow, will do the same for Mars. We’re on the way to a new era of planetary science and exploration. are on the threshold.”

In addition to helping to search for signs of ancient life and sending a Martian rock to Earth for the first time, Persistence’s mission objectives include characterizing the Red Planet’s geology and past climate, and data to aid in the first human voyages to Mars. Including collecting.

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