Perseverance, the centerpiece of NASA’s $2.7 billion Mars 2020 mission, launched on 30 July 2020. It landed on 18 February 2020 in a 45km-wide (30 miles) crater called Jezero, is ready to collect its first Martial rock sample for its journey back home. The core, about the size of a finger, will be packaged in a sealed tube to transport it back to Earth. If all goes as planned, it will collect the first drilling sample by early August, said NASA in its Release 21-097.
Perseverance is an 85% replica of the predecessor, the Mars Science Laboratory (MSL) Curiosity rover, which landed in August 2012 and is still strong today.
It was practical and feasible to use the resources for the US-based agency as it reduced a considerable amount of risk and investment, informed Space.com.
Thomas Zurbuchen, an associate administrator for science at NASA Headquarters, said, “When Neil Armstrong took the first sample from the Sea of Tranquility 52 years ago, he began a process that would rewrite what humanity knew about the Moon.
“I have every expectation that Perseverance’s first sample from Jezero Crater, and those that come after, will do the same for Mars. We are on the threshold of a new era of planetary science and discovery.”
One Kilometre to the south of its landing site, the robotic explorer, has found the place where it will drill and “what its operating team calls paver stones—flat, white, dust-coated rocks found throughout much of the floor of Jezero crater,” wrote Paul Voosen in his report for ScienceMag.org.
This land is the oldest in the crater, but it is not clear yet that the land deposited and the surrounding around is the result of the lake or volcanic eruptions.
If the latter is the case, then the sample could give evidence of radioactive elements, which would help figure an accurate date of the lake’s existence.
Recent closeup pictures taken of the pelted stones did not provide much clarity to it. The rocks had been layered up from grains, pebbles along with some purplish coating, confounding remote measurements, says Ken Farley, the mission’s project scientist and a geologist at the California Institute of Technology.
However, scientists have found a way to find the solution to this problem. In the coming two weeks, the rover will take its one instrument, which could help answer the question of whether the rocks are sedimentary or volcanic.
An abrasion bit mounted at the end of its 2-meter-long arm would help blow compressed gas to clear away the grit, giving a clear picture of the underlying rock.
The rover can then use its arm-mounted camera and laser and x-ray probes to reflect its clear structure and mineralogy.
The sampling sequence would start by placing everything required within reach of its 7-foot (2-meter) long robotic arm. Then the rover will conduct an “imagery survey” to help the NASA team decide the precise sport from where they will collect the first sample and another site in the same area for “proximity science”, informed NASA in its report.
The science campaign co–lead Vivian Sun, from NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Southern California, said, “The idea is to get valuable data on the rock we are about to sample by finding its geologic twin and performing detailed in-situ analysis.
On the geologic double, first, we use an abrading bit to scrape off the top layers of rock and dust to expose fresh, unweathered surfaces, blow it clean with our Gas Dust Removal Tool, and then get up close and personal with our turret-mounted proximity science instruments SHERLOC, PIXL, and WATSON.”