NASA has recently announced that their Perseverance Mars Rover would be attempting its second rock core sample mission. While the previous mission was unsuccessful, NASA engineers have revamped their technology and updated the new process.
One of the attached arms on the Perseverance rover will probe the surface of a large rock on Mars that scientists have nicknamed “Rochette.” The data will then be inspected by scientists who are monitoring the entire Mars rover mission. This will give them enough information to see if they would like to bring it back to Earth in one of the 42 titanium tubes for further inspection.
The first mission, carried out on August 6th, attempted to capture a record of a rock on the floor of a crater, but the rock was deemed “too fragile and crumbly,” which resulted in the scientists not following through with the mission.
Since the abrupt end to this mission, the Perseverance rover has parked itself on a ridge nicknamed “Citadelle,” which is a reference to the overlooking, castle-like view of the Jezero Crater. This new spot seems to be more promising, as the rock in this region looks to be more resistant to wind erosion, meaning it will be more sturdy and more convenient to drill into.
“There are potentially older rocks in the ‘South Séítah’ region ahead of us, so having this younger sample can help us reconstruct the whole timeline of Jezero,” said Vivian Sun, one of the mission’s scientists at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Southern California.
In addition to the planned process, the NASA team is taking extra precautions to make sure this mission is successful. They will pause the mission in the middle so that scientists can confirm that they have obtained a rock core. Once it is confirmed, the rover will resume with the mission and seal the tube.
“By returning samples to Earth, we hope to answer a number of scientific questions, including the composition of Mars’ atmosphere,” said Ken Farley, Perseverance’s project scientist at Caltech in Pasadena, California. “That’s why we’re interested in an atmospheric sample along with rock samples.”
While the main purpose of this mission is to learn more about Mars’ history through its geology, the overall mission of the Perseverance rover is to find evidence of ancient life on the Red Planet. The new data will hopefully lead to future breakthroughs for Perseverance’s mission.