NASA's Perseverance Mars rover took this selfie with some of the sample tubes it left on the Red Planet's surface using the camera at the end of its robotic arm. Photo Credit: NASA / JPL-Caltech / MSSS. Video: NASA JPL

Technology The World9. February 2023

Understanding Mars Better, One Rock at a Time

A sample depot of Martian minerals has been completed by NASA’s Perseverance rover, the first to be created on another planet, and scientists can now rely on this cache for further investigation of the Red Planet’s geological and astrobiological history.

It took six weeks for the rover to create the depot consisting of ten tubes full of rocks deemed “scientifically significant” to better understand Mars. All 18-centimeter tubes are placed between 38 and 127 centimeters apart in a complex zigzag pattern near the base of an ancient river delta in the Three Forks area of Jezero Crater created some four billion years ago.

NASA and the European Space Agency intend to recuperate the rock samples – igneous and sedimentary rock cores – stashed onboard Perseverance. This Plan A will be set in motion in 2028 with the launch of a Sample Retrieval Lander to Mars. Then, the rover will transfer its rock samples on the Mars Ascent Vehicle, the small rocket which will carry the samples to orbit. The Earth Return Orbiter will bring them to our planet by 2033 if everything goes according to plan. The recently created cache serves as a Plan B should the delicate five-year retrieval exercise fail so scientists can further their knowledge of the Red Planet.

Smithsonian Magazine

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