NASA’s Perseverance rover on Mars has seen its future, and it’s stuffed with rocks. Tons and plenty of rocks. After spending the summer time trundling by means of Jezero Crater and testing the sights, it’s now time for Percy to get to work, teasing out the geologic historical past of its new residence and looking for out indicators of historic microbial life.
“We’ve really been on a highway journey,” challenge supervisor Jennifer Trosper, who is predicated at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif., stated at a July 21 information convention. “And through it, we’ll take our very first pattern from the floor of Mars.”
Percy is about 1 kilometer south of the place it landed on February 18 (SN: 2/17/21). After driving itself round a area of sand dunes, accompanied by its tagalong helicopter Ingenuity (SN: 4/30/21), the robotic explorer has pulled as much as its first sampling spot: a backyard of flat, pale stones dubbed paver stones. “That is the realm the place we’re actually going to be digging in, each figuratively and actually, to grasp the rocks that now we have been on for the final a number of months,” stated Kenneth Farley, Perseverance challenge scientist at Caltech.
The workforce has been attempting to determine whether or not these rocks are volcanic or sedimentary. “We nonetheless don’t have the reply,” Farley stated. Photos taken a number of centimeters above the floor present what the workforce is up in opposition to: The rocks are affected by mud and pebbles, in all probability blown in from elsewhere, and the smoother surfaces have a mysterious purplish coating. “All of those elements conspire to stop us from peering into the rock and truly seeing what it’s made out of,” he stated.
Within the coming weeks, Percy will bore a easy cavity in a type of rocks and get beneath the floor crud. Devices on its robotic arm will then transfer in shut to provide detailed chemical and mineralogical maps that may reveal the rocks’ true nature. Then, someday in mid-August, the workforce will extract its first pattern. That pattern will go right into a tube that may finally get dropped off — together with samples from different locales — for some future mission to select up and convey to Earth (SN: 7/28/20).
Cameras scouting farther afield have turned up future sampling websites. A small far-off hill reveals hints of finely layered rock which may be mud deposits. “That is precisely the type of rock that we’re most thinking about investigating for searching for potential biosignatures,” Farley stated.
And the way in which that rocks are strewn about an historic river delta within the distance means that the lake that after crammed Jezero Crater went by means of a number of episodes of filling in and drying up. If true, Farley stated, then the crater might have preserved “a number of time intervals after we would possibly have the ability to search for proof of historic life that may have existed on the planet.”