Perseverance team analyzes “candidate” rock for the next sample collection

NASA’s Perseverance rover continues to explore Mars for signs left by ancient microbial life forms, if any. So, in early August, the rover made its first sample collection attempt, which ended up “disappearing”. Now, the Perseverance team of scientists is preparing for a new attempt, which could start next week if they choose to continue with an already identified rock.

Before the process begins, the rover will use its robotic arm to investigate a rock dubbed “Rochette” so scientists can look inside and determine if they will actually try to capture the sample from there. If you continue with Rochette sampling, the material obtained should be a little thicker than a pencil, and would be stored in one of the rover’s titanium tubes.

Detail of the Rochette rock, which the Perseverance team will examine (Image: Reproduction/NASA/JPL-Caltech)

The new collection will follow an attempt on Aug. 6, in which the rover tried to obtain samples of a rock that was too brittle, which broke into pieces so small that they could not be retained in the tube. Since that day, Perseverance has traveled about 450 m to a geological formation called “Citadelle” (which means “castle” in French), as a reference to the “view” that the site provides to the interior of the Jezero crater . This region has a layer of rocks that seem to resist the action of the wind, that is, it can also be firm enough to resist the collection of samples.

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While there, the rover will use RIMFAX radar to observe the underground layers of the Citadelle. Vivian Sun, mission scientist at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, explains that there are possibly older rocks in the region ahead. “So having this younger sample could help us reconstruct the entire Jezero crater timeline,” he explained. In addition, the new attempt will have a slight difference: after using the Mastcam-Z camera to look inside the tube, the rover will pause the collection sequence to observe the image and thus ensure that there is a rock core in the tube. .

After confirming that everything went well, Perseverance will be able to seal the tube so that it can be returned to Earth in the future — including the one from the first collection, since, although it does not have the rocks initially planned, it contains samples of the Martian atmosphere. “By bringing the samples to Earth, we hope to answer a number of scientific questions, including the composition of Mars’ atmosphere,” explained Ken Farley, Perseverance’s project scientist. “That’s why we are interested in atmospheric sampling, along with rock samples.”

Source: NASA

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