NASA’s Perseverance rover studies Mars’ geologically rich terrain

“In the distant past, the sand, mud and salts that now make up the Wildcat Ridge sample were deposited under conditions where life could have thrived,” Farley said. “The fact that organic matter was found in such sedimentary rock – known to preserve fossils of ancient life here on Earth – is significant. However, as good as our instruments aboard Perseverance are, further conclusions regarding the contents of the Wildcat Ridge sample will have to await its return to Earth for in-depth study as part of the agency’s Mars Sample Return campaign. .

The first stage of the NASA-ESA (European Space Agency) Mars Sample Return campaign began when Perseverance cored its first rock sample in September 2021. In addition to its rock core samples, the rover collected an atmospheric sample and two control tubes, all of which are stored in the rover’s belly.

The geological diversity of the samples already transported in the rover is so good that the rover team plans to deposit selected tubes near the base of the delta in about two months. After depositing the cache, the rover will continue its explorations of the delta.

“I have studied Martian habitability and geology for much of my career and know firsthand the incredible scientific value of returning a carefully collected set of Martian rocks to Earth,” said Laurie Leshin, Director of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory. “The fact that we are weeks away from deploying the fascinating Perseverance samples and only a few years away from arriving on Earth so that scientists can study them in exquisite detail is truly phenomenal. We will learn so much.

Learn more about the mission

A key focus of Perseverance’s mission to Mars is astrobiology, including caching samples that may contain signs of ancient microbial life. The rover will characterize the planet’s past geology and climate, pave the way for human exploration of the Red Planet, and be the first mission to collect and cache Martian rocks and regoliths.

Subsequent NASA missions, in cooperation with ESA, would send spacecraft to Mars to collect these sealed samples from the surface and return them to Earth for further analysis.

The Mars 2020 Perseverance mission is part of NASA’s Moon to Mars exploration approach, which includes Artemis missions to the Moon that will help prepare for human exploration of the Red Planet.

JPL, which is managed for NASA by Caltech, built and manages operations of the Perseverance rover.

To learn more about perseverance:

https://mars.nasa.gov/mars2020/

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