NASA Mars Perseverance Scouts Sample Return Campaign Landing Sites – NASA Mars Exploration

The six-wheeled explorer has inspected part of the Red Planet to see if it’s flat enough for NASA’s next Mars lander.

NASA’s Perseverance Mars rover is carrying out its science campaign, taking samples from the ancient Jezero Crater River delta, but it’s also been busy scouting. The rover is looking for places where the planned Mars Sample Return (MSR) campaign can land spacecraft and collect sample tubes that Perseverance has filled with rocks and sediment. Sites to be explored are under consideration due to their proximity to the delta and to each other, as well as their relatively flat, lander-friendly terrain.

Mars Sample Return is a landmark venture that would retrieve and deliver samples from this distant terrain for intensive study in laboratories on Earth to search for signs of past microscopic life on the Red Planet. The strategic partnership between NASA and the ESA (European Space Agency) would involve several spacecraft, including a rocket that would be launched from the surface of Mars.

Engineers planning a landing on Mars prefer to work with flatter ground because rocks and an undulating surface are more difficult to land on. With this in mind, the MSR Entry, Descent and Landing Team is looking for a flat landing area with a radius of 200 feet (60 meters).

“The Perseverance team has pulled out all the stops for us because Mars Sample Return has unique needs for where we’re operating,” said Richard Cook, MSR program manager at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Southern California. “Essentially, a boring landing spot is good. The flatter and more uninspiring the view, the better we like it, because while there’s a lot to do when we arrive to pick up the samples, tourism doesn’t not part of it.

Deeply inspiring

MSR’s first stage is already underway: Perseverance has cored, collected and sealed nine Martian rock samples to date. The ninth, collected on July 6, is the first from the old Jezero Crater River delta. The plan is for Perseverance to drop, or hide, sample tubes on the surface to await later retrieval during MSR surface operations.

Selecting an area free of large boulders (especially those over 7 1/2 inches or 19 centimeters in diameter), sand dunes, and steeply sloping terrain would go a long way in making a vehicle’s job easier MSR troubleshooter to efficiently grab tubes. before heading to the MSR Sample Retrieval Lander and its Mars Ascent Vehicle.

Perseverance Scouts landing sites for the Mars sample return campaign: Cloudspotting on Mars asks members of the public to look for arches like this in data collected by NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter. Credits: NASA/JPL-Caltech. Download picture ›

Landing runway

The MSR team calls the area they examined the “airstrip” because – at least from images taken from an orbiting spacecraft – it appears to be as flat and long as a track. But they needed a bird’s eye view to get a closer look.

“We’ve been monitoring these locations since before Perseverance landed, but orbital imagery can only tell you so much,” said Al Chen, head of engineering and systems integration for Perseverance. Mars samples at JPL. “Now we have some close, personal shots of the airstrip that indicate we were right. The airstrip will most likely be on our shortlist of potential landing and caching sites for MSR. »

Learn more about the campaign

NASA’s Mars Sample Return campaign promises to revolutionize humanity’s understanding of Mars by bringing scientifically selected samples to Earth for study using the world’s most sophisticated instruments. The campaign would fulfill a goal of solar system exploration, a high priority since the 1970s and in the last three decadal planetary studies by the National Academy of Sciences.

This strategic partnership between NASA and ESA would be the first sample return mission from another planet and the first launch from the surface of another planet. Samples collected by NASA’s Perseverance Mars rover while exploring an ancient lake bed are believed to present the best opportunity to reveal clues to Mars’ early evolution, including the potential for past life. By better understanding the history of Mars, we would improve our understanding of all the rocky planets in the solar system, including Earth.

Learn more about the Mars Sample Return Program:

Media contacts

Karen Fox / Dewayne Washington

NASA Headquarters, Washington
301-286-6284 / 301-832-5867

[email protected] / [email protected]

DC Eagle

Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, California.

[email protected]

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