The Perseverance Rover of the POT recently started exploring a mars area delta call jezero crater, and this week he collected his ninth sample so far. The rock samples from the delta are particularly exciting, as it is one of the most promising places to search for evidence of ancient life, and the samples collected from this region are prime targets for future sample return missions.
The ninth sample from Mars was collected on Thursday, July 9, and NASA’s perseverance team announced the successful collection of the sample on Twitter.
Rock sample #9 is in the bag! (Well, in the tube, anyway.)
My team has waited years to get up close to this river delta and see what it might say about past life on Mars. This sample may well get a one-way ticket back to Earth in the future! #SamplingMars pic.twitter.com/GCQ51UzUtg
— NASA’s Perseverance Mars Rover (@NASAPersevere) July 7, 2022
The rover arrived in the delta at Jezero Crater to begin its Delta Front Campaign in April. The area is the site of an ancient river delta that would have had water flowing there millions of years ago. There are sedimentary rock layers there now that Perseverance is sampling for evidence of ancient microbial life.
“These sediments were deposited billions of years ago, when water flowed across the surface of Mars and a river drained into the ancient crater below,” explained Denise Buckner in a NASA blog post at that moment. “If Mars harbored life during this time, the remains or signatures of those organisms could be preserved in some of these ancient rocks.”
The Perseverance rover has scientific tools on board such as cameras and spectroscopy instruments that can analyze the composition of rocks. But on-site data collection is only part of their mission. The other part of the rover’s job is to collect samples and seal them inside tubes, which will be left on the surface of Mars. Future missions will then be sent to collect these samples, take them to an ascent vehicle and send them into orbit and eventually back to Earth for study. This is called a sample return mission and it is the next big step in exploring Mars.
NASA has been working on plans for a sample return mission for years and has recently been refining the details of what such a mission might look like and testing the hardware it might use. However, NASA is not the only space agency interested in such a mission, and China has recently said it plans to launch an ambitious mission to return samples from Mars by 2031, two years ahead of NASA’s target date. .