The Perseverance rover has been at Jezero Crater for about nine months, a dried-up lake bed on Mars. Since then, the rover’s science mission has been in full gear, with the rover now combing Mars’ surface for fascinating rocks to sample. It recently revealed a circular area of rock that has never before been exposed to the dim light of Martian day.
Perseverance is searching for rock formations that might disclose Mars’ geologic history and, possibly, signs of past life on the planet. The far-fetched theory is that if anything ever survived on Mars, it was when liquid water flowed on the surface. Scientists recently discovered that at least part of the rocks at Jezero is igneous, meaning they come from the planet’s interior, and early studies showed that the lake in Jezero saw intense flash floods in the past.
The rover will eventually arrive near Jezero’s western side, where a river delta previously flowed into the lake. Experts believe any microfossils will be found there based on where such bacteria tend to settle on Earth. According to recent social media posts, the rover is having a great time at work. It swung past a few enormous rock outcrops last month, and it admired some lovely layered rocks the previous week.
The rover’s crew revealed yesterday that they are coming closer to deciding on the following sample destination. The rover collects rock samples by selecting a spot and abrading a circular portion, revealing a part that is not exposed to the elements. The rock is then cored, and the sample is stored within the car-sized frame. Its lazy Susan-like storehouse for Martian rock will be delivered to Earth in the future, most likely around 2030.
Scientists will analyze the samples in far more detail once they arrive on Earth instead of whatever they can get from millions of kilometers away.
The initial effort at collecting a rock sample failed, but NASA scientists could obtain a piece on their second attempt. The rover is currently to the southeast of its landing location, on the borders of Mars’ South Sétah area, a challenging pattern of dunes and hills that may be difficult for a rover to negotiate. That’s one of the reasons NASA has liked using the Ingenuity chopper as a scout; it can see rocks from above that Perseverance can’t.
The Perseverance mission will span a Martian year or 687 Earth days. However, if prior rover lives are any indication, we may be graced with many years after that. Hopefully, the rover will have enough time to discover something genuinely unique in that dusty crater.
During solar conjunction, the Perseverance rover had a well-deserved holiday in October, but it’s back to exploring fascinating rocks in Mars’ Jezero Crater. On October 2, NASA’s contacts with the rover were suspended due to solar conjunction (when the sun is between Earth and Mars). This blackout ended on October 19, and Perseverance immediately resumed its hunt for traces of ancient life on Mars.
One of the rover’s primary objectives is to gather samples from rocks and soil on Mars to return to Earth by future missions. It has already gathered two samples and has employed the Ingenuity chopper as an airborne scout to locate its following sample-worthy locations.