NASA’s Perseverance rover has grabbed another rock that may hold clues to whether there is life on Mars.
Mars mission officials briefly announced the milestone on Monday (August 1) on Twitter, linking the rover’s collection to its future participation in a planned sample return mission.
“Exciting news: Not only did I recently grab a new rock core (#11), but plans are underway to bring these samples back to Earth,” said the Perseverance rover. tweeted (opens in a new tab) Monday.
Related: 12 stunning photos of the Perseverance rover’s first year on Mars
NASA has redesigned the Mars sample-return mission to make Perseverance the primary sample-collection rover, scrapping previous plans to use a European Space Agency recovery rover, the agency said. last week. As a backup, NASA will instruct two new helicopters to collect the samples themselves.
Also last week, NASA officials told reporters that the 11th rover sample is sedimentary rock that may contain biomarkers or indications of life. Although Perseverance could perform preliminary analyzes on its samples, it couldn’t take many instruments with it to Mars, so scientists are eager to bring the caches back to Earth for more detailed analysis.
Hence the sample return mission, which is a joint effort between NASA and the European Space Agency (ESA) and is scheduled to launch on the Red Planet in 2028. In the meantime, Perseverance will prepare samples that ‘She’ll collect in Jezero Crater and find a convenient spot where the Sample Return Mission could land.
After the sample return mission lands, Perseverance will carry samples to a small rocket called the Mars Ascent Vehicle (MAV). The rocket will launch the samples to an orbiter which will transmit the rocks to Earth for analysis by scientists.
Perseverance contains 43 test tubes, 38 of which should be filled with samples. The rover team is careful to pick up the most promising examples from the collection area so they don’t waste valuable cargo space.
The mission landed on Mars in February 2021 and completed its first tube in September 2021. So far, it’s examining a river delta that may include traces of past life in the area, according to past briefings with Perseverance officials.