On September 6, the Mars Rover Perseverance he drilled into a briefcase-sized rock with his incredibly sophisticated capture and sampling system, then snapped a photo to commemorate the first Martian rock recovered as part of his mission.
After a brief confusion, scientists and space enthusiasts finally saw the photo that conclusively showed a rock from Mars captured in the sample tube, and they were able to celebrate a truly historic moment.
Two days later drilled a few inches to the left on the same rock and captured another sample.
Perseverance is exploring the bottom of an ancient lake bed known as Jezero Crater, where scientists believe the remnants of ancient microbial life will be found on Mars, if any.
“NASA has a history of setting ambitious goals and then meeting them, reflecting our nation’s commitment to discovery and innovation.” said NASA Administrator Bill Nelson. “This is a momentous achievement and I can’t wait to see the incredible discoveries made by Perseverance and our team.”
An attempt on August 7 to pierce the Martian regolith I don’t capture anything, worrying scientists that their billion-dollar vehicle had flown the full 3.5 years to Mars only to return empty-handed.
“I’ve been on every Mars rover mission since the beginning, and this planet is always teaching us what we don’t know about it,” said Perseverance project manager Jennifer Trosper. “One thing I have found is that it is not unusual to have complications during complex activities that are performed for the first time.”
We know that there was an atmosphere and water on Mars billions of years ago, and if those conditions had been maintained long enough, there is a chance that life could regenerate.
The next stop after collecting samples from Jezero will be the fan-shaped delta of the ancient lake, a kind of landscape where life would explode with diversity and prosperity, at least on Earth. It has one of the best chances we’ll have to find microbial life forms. The delta could potentially contain clay, which quickly buries organic material. If there is clay, there may be remains of life.
Another opportunity will be the carbonate rocks, which have been located in Jezero using data from the Mars orbiter, and which have been shown on Earth to exquisitely preserve organic structures such as seashells.
Perseverance is planned to study the geography of Mars as it travels for a year or two, before depositing its samples at the landing site, where a search rover, which could be launched in 2026, will have to retrieve them.
It is harrowing to think that we are reporting on the collection of these samples now, but we may have to wait 10 years for them to return to Earth.
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