NASA’s Mars Perseverance rover has collected its 10th small rock sample as it continues to explore the Red Planet in search of fragments of Martian soil that could harbor traces of past life, which a future mission could deliver on earth.
NASA shared the sample image on PerseveranceThe Twitter account for Tuesday, July 12, with a comment suggesting the rover may have felt neglected on James Webb Space Telescope Day big picture revealed.
“Big day for space science! From the views of the Large Telescope that #UnfoldTheUniverse, to the extreme close-ups of #SamplingMars, with rocky cores barely the size of a pinky finger,” the mission team tweeted. (opens in a new tab) “I have now collected my 10th rock sample, seen here in the late afternoon Martian sun.”
Related: 12 stunning photos of the Perseverance rover’s first year on Mars
Perseverance has recently broadened the scope of its tasks and started looking for a convenient location where a possible future sample return mission could land. This location would not only provide a future spacecraft with a place to land safely, but would also provide a suitable environment to set up the first-ever launch pad on a planet other than Earth.
The Mars sample return missionproposed jointly by NASA and the European Space Agency (ESA), could launch to the red planet in 2028 and recover the samples prepared by Perseverance in Jezero Crater. From there, a small rocket known as the Mars Ascent Vehicle (MAV) would deliver the samples to an orbiter that could take them to Earth.
Perseverance, which landed on Mars in February 2021, is carrying 43 test tubes, 38 of which need to be filled with samples. The rover uses a small drill on the end of its robotic arm to extract promising rock fragments.
Since there are only a limited number of tubes, the rover team carefully assesses each location before drilling so as not to waste valuable space on less promising rocks.
The rover, which filled its first hit in September 2021currently studying a former river delta. Last week, the rover collected its ninth sample in this location. The rover team hinted at the potential to harbor traces of the past life of this particular site.
“Rock Sample #9 is in the bag! (Well, in the tube, anyway.),” the rover team said in a Tweeter. “My team has waited years to approach this river delta and see what it might say about past life on Mars. This sample might just get a one-way trip to Earth in the future!”