This important mission milestone is expected to begin in the next two weeks. Perseverance landed in Jezero crater on February 18, and NASA began the science phase of the rover mission on June 1, exploring a 1.5-square-mile (4-square-kilometer) patch of crater floor that may contain the deeper and older layers of Jezero. exposed bedrock.
“When Neil Armstrong took the first sample of the Sea of Tranquility 52 years ago, he began a process that rewrote what humanity knew about the Moon,” said Thomas Zurbuchen, associate administrator for science at NASA Headquarters. “I have every expectation that the first Perseverance sample from Jezero Crater, and those that follow, will do the same for Mars. We are on the threshold of a new era of planetary science and discovery.”
It took Armstrong 3 minutes and 35 seconds to collect that first sample from the Moon. Perseverance will require around 11 days to complete your first sampling, as you must receive your instructions from hundreds of millions of miles away while relying on the most complex and capable mechanism, as well as the cleanest, ever sent into space: the Sampling and caching system.
Precision instruments Working together
The sampling sequence begins with the rover placing everything needed for sampling within reach of its 7-foot (2-meter) long robotic arm. It will then conduct an imaging study, so the NASA science team can determine the exact location to take the first sample and a separate target site in the same area for “proximity science.”
“The idea is to obtain valuable data on the rock that we are about to sample by finding its geological twin and doing a detailed analysis in situ,” said NASA science campaign co-leader Vivian Sun. Jet Propulsion Laboratory in southern California. “In the geological double, we first use an abrasive bit to scrape off the upper layers of rock and dust to expose cool, weather-free surfaces, blow it out with our gas dust removal tool, and then zoom in on our turret. Mounted proximity science instruments SHERLOC, PIXLand WATSON “.
SHERLOC (Scanning Living Environments with Raman and Luminescence for Organics and Chemicals), PIXL (Planetary Instrument for X-ray Lithochemistry) and the WATSON (Wide Angle Topographic Sensor for Operations and Engineering) camera will provide mineral and chemical analysis of the worn target. .
The perseverance SuperCam and the Mastcam-Z instruments, both located on the rover’s neck, will also participate. As SuperCam fires its laser at the weathered surface, spectroscopically measuring the resulting plume and collecting other data, Mastcam-Z will capture high-resolution images.
Working together, these five instruments will enable unprecedented analysis of geological materials in the workplace.
“Once our pre-coring science is complete, we will limit the rover’s tasks to one sun or one Martian day,” Sun said. “This will allow the rover to fully charge its battery for the next day’s events.”
The sampling day begins with the sample handling arm within the adaptive caching assembly retrieving a sample tube, heating it up, and then inserting it into a sample extraction bit. A device called a drill carousel transports the tube and bit to a rotating hammer drill in Perseverance’s robotic arm, which will then drill the intact geological “twin” of the rock studied in the previous sun, filling the tube with a core sample. about the size of a piece of chalk.
The Perseverance arm will then move the tube and bit combination back to the bit carousel, which will transfer it back to the Adaptive Caching Assembly, where the sample volume will be measured, photographed, hermetically sealed, and stored. The next time the contents of the sample tube are viewed, it will be in a clean room facility on Earth, for analysis using science instruments too large to send to Mars.
“Not all samples Perseverance collects will be done in the search for ancient life, and we do not expect this first sample to provide definitive proof one way or another,” said Perseverance project scientist Ken Farley of Caltech. “While the rocks located in this geological unit are not excellent time capsules for organics, we believe that they have been around since the formation of the Jezero crater and are incredibly valuable in filling the gaps in our geological understanding of this region, things that we will desperately need. . to know if we discovered that life ever existed on Mars. ”
More about the mission
A key objective of the Perseverance mission on Mars is astrobiology, including searching for signs of ancient microbial life. The rover will characterize the planet’s geology and past climate, paving the way for human exploration of the Red Planet, and will be the first mission to collect and store Martian rocks and regoliths.
The Mars 2020 Perseverance mission is the first step in NASA’s Mars Sample Return Campaign. Later NASA missions, now in development in cooperation with the European Space Agency, would send a spacecraft to Mars to collect these sealed samples from the surface and return them to Earth for in-depth analysis.
The Perseverance Mars 2020 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.