- NASA’s Perseverance rover has collected its first sample of the mission’s latest science campaign on Mars.
- This 16th cored rock sample of the mission is rich in carbonate, which makes it promising for studying the water cycle that has shaped the planet’s surface and interior.
- Scientists are looking for signs of ancient microbial life in the Martian samples to better understand the red planet’s past climate and geology.
- The collected samples will be analyzed with powerful lab equipment on Earth, and subsequent missions will collect sealed samples from the surface to bring back to Earth for further study.
NASA’s Perseverance rover has been exploring the top of Jezero Crater’s delta on Mars and has collected its first sample of the mission’s newest science campaign. The rover cored and stored a rock sample called Berea, which is rich in carbonate, on Thursday, March 30. The science team believes that the rock formed from deposits carried downstream by an ancient river, which makes it promising for studying the water cycle that has shaped the planet’s surface and interior. The sample also holds the secrets of Mars’ past climate and geology, which can help scientists to better understand the planet’s evolution.
Exploring the Martian Samples for Signs of Ancient Microbial Life
Perseverance’s mission on Mars is primarily focused on astrobiology, including collecting samples that may contain signs of ancient microbial life. The rover is equipped with powerful lab equipment to analyze the samples on Earth and search for biosignatures. Scientists hope that the Berea sample can provide them with insights into the past climate of Mars, as carbonates form due to chemical interactions in liquid water and can provide a long-term record of changes in the planet’s climate. Therefore, studying the carbonate in the Berea sample can help scientists to fill in the gaps in understanding the planet’s climate history.
Perseverance’s Hunt for Martian Rocks
Perseverance has been on a hunt for rocks worthy of bringing back to Earth for further study. The rover has collected a total of 19 samples and three witness tubes, and it recently deposited ten tubes as a backup cache on the Martian surface as part of the NASA-ESA Mars Sample Return campaign. Each campaign of the mission involves exploring and studying a new area, and the latest campaign involves exploring the top of Jezero Crater’s delta. With this diversity of environments to observe and collect from, scientists are confident that these samples will allow them to better understand what occurred at Jezero Crater billions of years ago.
The Beauty of Rover Missions
Perseverance’s deputy project scientist, Katie Stack Morgan, said that the beauty of rover missions lies in the diversity of environments that they can observe and collect from. Perseverance’s mobility has allowed the science team to collect igneous samples from the relatively flat crater floor during the first campaign and then travel to the base of the crater’s delta, where they found fine-grained sedimentary rocks deposited in a dried lakebed. Now, the rover is sampling from a geologic location where it found coarse-grained sedimentary rocks deposited in a river. With this diversity of samples, scientists can better understand what happened on Mars billions of years ago.
Future Mars Missions
The Mars 2020 Perseverance mission is part of NASA’s Moon to Mars exploration approach, which includes Artemis missions to the Moon that will help prepare for human exploration of the Red Planet. Subsequent missions in cooperation with ESA will send spacecraft to Mars to collect these sealed samples from the surface and return them to Earth for in-depth analysis. This will enable scientists to study the samples with even more powerful lab equipment and techniques that cannot be used on Mars.
In conclusion, Perseverance’s latest sample of the mission’s newest science campaign is a promising addition to the collected Martian samples. Scientists are looking forward to analyzing the samples to better understand the red planet’s past climate and geology and search for signs of ancient microbial life. Perseverance’s mobility has allowed the science team to collect diverse samples from different environments, which will provide a more comprehensive understanding of what occurred on Mars billions of years ago. The future missions in cooperation with ESA will bring the collected samples back to Earth for further analysis, which will provide valuable insights into the evolution of our neighboring planet.