Perseverance deposits its first sample on the surface of Mars: After confirming that the first sample tube was at the surface, the Perseverance team positioned the WATSON camera on the end of the rover’s robotic arm to peer under the rover to make sure the tube didn’t get in the way of the rover Rovers was rolled wheels. Credits: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS. Download image ›
The rock-filled sample tube will be one of 10 that make up a repository of tubes that could be considered for a trip to Earth by the Mars Sample Return campaign.
A titanium tube containing a rock sample rests on the red planet’s surface after being placed there he Dec 21 from NASA’s Mars rover Perseverance. Over the next two months, the rover will deposit a total of 10 tubes at the site called “Three Forks,” building humanity’s first off-planet sample repository. The depot marks a historic early step in the Mars Sample Return campaign.
Perseverance sampled duplicate rock targets that the mission selects. The rover currently has the other 17 samples (including an atmospheric sample) recorded in its abdomen so far. Based on the Mars Sample Return campaign architecture, the rover would deliver samples to a future robotic lander. The lander would, in turn, use a robotic arm to place the samples in a containment pod aboard a small rocket that would lift off into Mars orbit, where another spacecraft would capture the sample container and return it safely to Earth.
The depot serves as a backup in case Perseverance is unable to deliver its samples. In this case, a pair of Sample Recovery Helicopters would be called in to finish the job.
The first sample to fall was a chalk-sized core igneous rock informally called “Malay”, born on November 1, 2022, in a region of Mars crater Jezero called “South Séítah”. The endurance complex Sampling and caching system It took almost an hour to get the metal tube out of the rover’s belly, take a last look inside it CacheCamand drop the sample about 3 feet (89 centimeters) onto a carefully chosen patch of the Martian surface.
But the job wasn’t over for engineers at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Southern California, which developed Perseverance and is leading the mission. After confirming that the tube had fallen, the team positioned it WATSON Camera on the end of Perseverance’s 2 meter robotic arm to look under the rover to ensure the tube had not rolled in the path of the rover’s wheels.
They also wanted to make sure the tube hadn’t landed standing on its end (each tube has a flat end piece called a “glove” to make it easier to pick up on future missions). This happened less than 5% of the time during testing with Perseverance’s Earthly Twin at JPL’s Mars Yard. In case it happens on Mars, the mission wrote a set of commands for Perseverance to carefully knock over the tube with part of the turret at the end of its robotic arm.
They will have other opportunities in the coming weeks to see if Perseverance needs to use the technique as the rover caches more samples at Three Forks.
“Seeing our first rehearsal on site is a great capstone for our prime mission time, which is 6/1,” said Rick Welch, associate project manager of Perseverance at JPL. “It’s a nice alignment that while we begin our cache, we’re also completing this first chapter of the mission.”
More about the mission
A key objective for Perseverance’s mission to Mars is astrobiology, including looking for signs of ancient microbial life. The rover will characterize the planet’s geology and past climate, pave the way for human exploration of the Red Planet, and be the first mission to collect and cache Martian rock and regolith (broken rock and dust).
Subsequent NASA missions, in cooperation with ESA (European Space Agency), would send spacecraft to Mars to collect these sealed samples from the surface and return them to Earth for in-depth analysis.
The Mars 2020 Perseverance mission is part of NASA’s Moon-to-Mars exploration approach, which includes the following artemis Missions to the moon that will help prepare for human exploration of the red planet.
JPL, managed for NASA by Caltech in Pasadena, California, built the Perseverance rover and manages operations.
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