NASA’s Perseverance rover has drilled into its second rock with a view to collecting samples, after the first strangely disappeared.
The space agency has chosen to investigate the rock “Rochette”, located on a ridge called “Citadel” near Jezero crater on the Red Planet. A drilling tool on the rover’s two-meter-long robotic arm will sink into the rock and transfer the material to a capture tube that is only slightly thicker than a pencil.
The Citadel Ridge is capped with a layer of rock that appears to be resistant to wind erosion, meaning that it is likely that the rock will endure the pressure of drilling. This is an important quality because NASA’s previous attempt to retrieve a sample resulted in an empty tube.
Engineers were initially confused as to how the specimen might have disappeared, but later concluded that the specimen was unusually soft and possibly trapped in the hole.
That first tube won’t go to waste; Despite having no rocks in it, it is a perfect sample of the Martian atmosphere.
“By returning samples to Earth, we hope to answer many scientific questions, including the composition of the Martian atmosphere,” said Ken Farley, Perseverance’s project scientist at Caltech. “That’s why we are interested in rock samples as well as atmospheric samples.”
For this new effort, however, NASA added an extra step to the sampling process: After using its camera to fill the sample tube, the rover will pause the sequence so that the ground team can review the image to see if it exists. The firmness will seal the tube once it is confirmed.
Rochette isn’t as old as other rocks on Mars, but it will help NASA put together a more accurate timeline of the planet. Vivian Sun, one of the mission’s scientists at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Southern California, said, “There are potentially older rocks in the ‘South Sita’ region ahead of us, so having this small sample gives us the full timeline of Jezero.” Re-creating might help.” .
NASA hopes that persistence will help it find evidence of extraterrestrial life on the planet. Jazzero Crater was once filled with water and was the site of an ancient river, scientists believe. Evidence in water makes it more likely that microbial life may exist there.
The geology of the crater is also very important. Sedimentary rocks such as sandstone and limestone have better potential to preserve biosignatures than igneous rocks formed from volcanoes.
NASA intends to collect about 35 samples that will eventually be returned to Earth via a future craft.
Credit: www.independent.co.uk /