Mars rover Perseverance prepares for a second sample collection attempt (photo)


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that of NASA Perseverance rover is on track to collect its very first sample from Mars in the coming days.

Perseverance has recently eroded the top 0.4 inches (1 centimeter) of a Red Planet rock nicknamed “Rochette”, open a window in the stone basement. This work was part of a detailed assessment of Rochette, which now appears to have been selected as a drilling and sampling target.

“Next step: drilling. I have checked my new target rock from all angles and am ready to try again for my first core sample,” said members of the Perseverance team on Tuesday August 31st. via the rover’s official Twitter account.

Related: Where to find the latest Mars photos from NASA’s Perseverance rover

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Perseverance landed on the floor of the 28-mile (45-kilometer) Jezero Crater from Mars on February 18, tasked with looking for signs of ancient life on Mars and collecting dozens of samples for future return to Earth. The car-sized rover attempted to take its first drilled sample on August 6, but the target rock turned out to be surprisingly crumbly, breaking into pieces that failed to enter the sample tube.

Perseverance then drove about 1,493 feet (455 meters) to a new location, a rocky ridge nicknamed “Citadelle” (French for “castle”). Members of the mission team quickly identified Rochette as a potentially promising target and started the “soil sampling route”.

“A ‘sol’ is a Martian day, so ‘sol path’ refers to the activities of the rover over the course of a few soils,” Rachel Kronyak, systems engineer at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Southern California, who manages the mission to Perseverance, explained in an update Tuesday. (A day on Mars is 39 minutes longer than a day on Earth.)

“In the case of the sampling soil path, we are referring to all activities related to a sampling event, a process that takes more than a week to complete on Mars,” she wrote. “We’re on track for sampling, and if all goes well over the next few soils, we’ll proceed with core sampling. Go perseverance! “

The rover’s sampling system is designed to collect relatively intact cylindrical rock cores measuring 0.5 inches wide by 2.4 inches long (1.3 cm by 6 cm). These cores are drilled by the drill at the end of Perseverance’s 7-foot-long (2.1 m) robotic arm. (Perseverance will also collect loose rock material from the Martian surface, but that’s not what she was trying to do on August 6, and that’s not what she will be doing with Rochette in the next few days.)

The samples captured by Perseverance will be brought to Earth by a joint NASA-European Space Agency campaign, maybe as early as 2031. They will then be analyzed in detail by scientists around the world, who will scour them for signs of the past. martian life and clues to the geological and climatic history of the planet, among others.

Mike Wall is the author of “The low“(Grand Central Publishing, 2018; illustrated by Karl Tate), a book on the search for alien life. Follow him on Twitter @michaeldwall. Follow us on Twitter @Spacedotcom or Facebook.


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