The Perseverance robot was able to collect two rock samples on Mars that could be of volcanic origin. According to NASA, the US space agency, the presence of salts in the material may be an indication of conditions favorable to life in the past.
Perseverance extracted a first sample of the rock, dubbed Rochette, last week and another two days later. In August, the robot made its first attempt at collecting on the Roubion rock, but it was unsuccessful. The strategy was to move on to a second one with more resistant material.
“It appears that our first rocks reveal a potentially habitable environment,” said Ken Farley, head of science at Perseverance, in a statement.
“Based on observations made so far, we deduce that Roubion and Rochette come from ancient lava spills,” said Katie Stack Morgan, a member of the Perseverance science team. The rocks “show evidence of important interactions” with water, he added.
According to scientists, mineral salts may have emerged after the water in the Martian soil had evaporated, which further strengthens the researchers’ belief that Mars has had water for a long period of time.
The samples were stored in sealed tubes and kept inside the rover.
“My first two rock samples are likely volcanic with evidence of salts that may contain ancestral water bubbles. They are pieces of a larger puzzle to learn: how this area formed; the history of water; if a past life already existed here,” shared the NASA robot profile on Twitter.
How is rock collection on Mars
Perseverance drills into the Martian rock with a drill that sits at the end of its 2.1 m long robotic arm. From then onwards, the stage of collecting soil samples took place.
During the procedure, the rover takes photos of the material in the tube, which the researchers analyze.
In the first attempt, on August 6, Perseverance drilled, collected and sealed a rock sample, but the team found that the tube that would hold the material was mysteriously empty. It was later discovered that this happened because the rock was too fragile in structure, and fragmented into pieces too small to be collected.
For the second attempt, the rover sought a higher region, and walked about 450 meters from the point of the first extraction, until reaching the Rochette rock, which seemed to be the most rigid and firm enough for the procedure.
voila – a window into this rock we call “Rochette.” I ground away its outer surface I’m see what it’s like inside. I’ll study this spot with various tools, I’m help decide whether I’m go out to sample with my coring drill. #SamplingMars https://t.co/jQN5AK1EBl pic.twitter.com/8rmbeYj4Db
— NASA’s Perseverance Mars Rover (@NASAPersevere) August 28, 2021
What comes next?
It will take some time for scientists to study the samples up close and others still to be collected on Mars.
Among Perseverance’s missions on the red planet is the work of collecting rocks and soil that will be sent to Earth. AA NASA plans a mission to bring about 30 samples to our planet in the 2030s. Scientists could then conduct more detailed analyzes to confirm whether microbial life existed on Mars.
Until that moment arrives, Perseverance will continue exploring the Jezero crater in the company of the Ingenuity helicopter.
*With text by Renata Baptista and information from Reuters and AFP news agencies