NASA’s Mars rover captures new sample—and scientists hope to bring it back to Earth

·2-min read
NASA’s Perseverance rover has has captured a new sample from a martian rock (PA Media)
NASA’s Perseverance rover has has captured a new sample from a martian rock (PA Media)

NASA has announced that its Mars rover has captured its eleventh sample of the Red Planet.

On the Perseverance rover Twitter account, the space agency revealed that the rover has successfully grabbed a sedimentary rock, which could give researchers more clues on the history of Mars and if it ever contained ancient life.

The tweet reads: “Exciting news: Not only did I recently grab a new rock core (#11), but plans are coming together to bring these samples back to Earth.”

Scientists are eager to transport the caches back to Earth for more detailed analysis, as Perseverance could not carry many instruments to Mars and can only do a preliminary analysis on its samples.

The sample return mission, which is a joint effort of NASA and the European Space Agency (ESA), is scheduled to launch to the Red Planet in 2028.

Last week, the agency announced that it has redesigned the sample return mission to make Perseverance the primary sample collection rover, discarding previous plans to use a fetch rover from the ESA.

The new plan now includes two new helicopters whose designs will be based on Ingenuity’s—Perseverance’s scout helicopter currently positioned alongside the rover.

The Perseverance rover will prepare samples from Mars’ Jezero Crater, and find a convenient location for the sample return mission to land.

After it lands, the rover will send the samples to a small rocket called the Mars Ascent Vehicle (MAV), which will then launch the rocks to an orbiter that will deliver them to Earth for analysis.

Perseverance contains 43 test tubes, of which 38 are expected to be filled with samples that the rover team will ensure are the most promising examples from the collection area.

NASA’s rover landed on Mars in February 2021, and filled its first tube in September that same year.

According to past briefings with Perseverance officials, the rover is currently examining a river delta that may include past traces of life within the area.

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