NASA’s Perseverance rover to begin construction of a Martian sample repository – NASA Mars Exploration

The 10 sample tubes that are dropped on the surface of Mars so they can be studied on Earth in the future contain an amazing diversity of Red Planet geology.

In the coming days, NASA’s Perseverance rover is expected to begin building the first sample repository on another world. This will mark a crucial milestone at NASA-ESA (European Space Agency) Sample return from Mars campaign, the goal of which is to bring samples from Mars to Earth for further study.

The repository construction process begins when the rover drops one of its titanium sample tubes carrying a chalk-sized rock core from its belly 2.9 feet (88.8 centimeters) to the ground in an area inside the Jezero crater nicknamed “Three Forks”. Over the course of about 30 days, Perseverance will deposit a total of 10 tubes carrying representative samples of the diversity of the rock record in Jezero crater.

Perseverance Delta Top Campaign Map

Perseverance Delta Top Campaign Map: This map shows the planned route that NASA’s Perseverance Mars rover will take across the upper delta of Jezero Crater in 2023. The rover’s planned route is in black, while the terrain it has already covered is in white. Credits: NASA/JPL-Caltech. Download image >

The rover has been taking a couple of samples of each of his rocky targets. Half of each pair will be deposited at Three Forks as a backup set, and the other half will remain within Perseverance, which will be the primary means of transporting collected samples to the Mars launch vehicle as part of the campaign.

“The samples for this deposit, and the duplicates found aboard Perseverance, are an incredibly representative set of the area explored during the main mission,” said Meenakshi Wadhwa, principal scientist for Arizona State University’s Mars Sample Return program. “We not only have igneous Y sedimentary rocks recording at least two and possibly four or even more distinct styles of aqueous humor disturbance, but also regolithatmosphere and a witness tube.”

A map of signs of perseverance

A map of signs of perseveranceAbove: Shown here is a representation of the 21 sample tubes (containing rock, regolith, atmosphere, and core materials) that have been sealed to date by NASA’s Perseverance Mars rover. Samples that Perseverance is placing in a repository are highlighted in green. Credits: NASA/JPL-Caltech. Download image >

How to build a warehouse

One of the first requirements for building a sample repository on Mars is to find a level, rock-free stretch of ground in Jezero crater where there is space to deposit each tube.

“Until now, missions to Mars required only a good landing zone; we need 11,” said Richard Cook, Mars Sample Return program manager at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in southern California. “The first one is for Sample Retrieval Lander, but then we need 10 more nearby for our Sample Recovery Helicopters to perform takeoffs and landings, and drive too”.

After establishing themselves at a suitable site, the campaign’s next task was to find out exactly where and how to deploy the tubes within that location. “They can’t just be dropped in a big pile because recovery helicopters are designed to interact with only one tube at a time,” Cook said. The helicopters are meant to serve as backup, just like the depot. To ensure that a helicopter can retrieve samples without disturbing the rest of the repository or encountering obstructions by rocks or occasional ripples, each pipe drop location will have an “area of ​​operation” of at least 18 feet (5.5 meters) in diameter. To that end, the tubes will be deposited on the surface in an intricate zigzag pattern, with each sample spaced 16 to 49 feet (5 to 15 meters) apart.

The success of the deposit will depend on the precise placement of the tubes, a process that will take more than a month. Before and after Perseverance releases each tube, mission controllers will review a multitude of images from the rover. This assessment will also give the Mars Sample Return team the precise data needed to locate the tubes in case samples become covered in dust or sand before collection.

Perseverance’s Mastcam-Z sees ‘Rockytop’: NASA’s Perseverance Mars rover used its Mastcam-Z camera to capture this rocky pinnacle nicknamed “Rockytop” on July 24, 2022, the 507th Martian day, or sol, of the mission. Credits: NASA/JPL-Caltech/ASU/MSSS. Download image >

Perseverance Extended Mission

Perseverance’s primary mission will conclude on January 6, 2023, one Mars year (about 687 Earth days) after February 18, 2021. landing.

“We’ll continue to work on deploying the sample repository when our extended mission begins on January 7, so nothing changes from that perspective,” said Art Thompson, project manager for Perseverance at JPL. “However, once the table is set in Three Forks, we will head to the top of the delta. The science team wants to take a good look up there.

Called the Delta Top Campaign, this new science phase it will begin when Perseverance finishes its climb up the steep delta embankment and reaches the expanse that forms the upper surface of the Jezero delta, probably sometime in February. During this roughly eight-month campaign, the science team will search for rocks and other material that were transported from elsewhere on Mars and deposited by the ancient river that formed this delta.

“The Delta Top campaign is our chance to take a look at the geologic process beyond the walls of Jezero Crater,” said Katie Stack Morgan of JPL, Perseverance deputy project scientist. “Billions of years ago, a raging river carried debris and rock from miles beyond Jezero’s walls. We are going to explore these ancient fluvial deposits and obtain samples of their long-haul boulders and rocks.”

A map of the samples from the Perseverance deposit

A map of the Perseverance repository samples: This map shows where NASA’s Perseverance Mars rover will drop 10 samples that a future mission could collect. Credits: NASA/JPL-Caltech. Download image >

More about the mission

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

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 in-depth analysis.

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

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

For more information on perseverance:

More about the campaign

The NASA-ESA Mars Sample Return Campaign will revolutionize humanity’s understanding of Mars by bringing scientifically selected samples back to Earth for study using the world’s most sophisticated instruments. The campaign would meet a goal of exploring the solar system, a high priority since the 1970s and in the last three Decennial Planetary Studies of the National Academy of Sciences.

This strategic partnership of NASA and ESA would be the first mission to return samples from another planet and the first launch from the surface of another planet. Samples collected by Perseverance during its exploration of an ancient river delta are believed to present the best opportunity to reveal the early evolution of Mars, including the potential for life. By better understanding the history of Mars, we would improve our understanding of all the rocky planets in the solar system, including Earth.

Learn more about the Mars sample return program here:

News Press Contacts

Karen Fox/Alana Johnson
NASA Headquarters, Washington
301-286-6284 / 202-358-1501 /

D.C. Eagle
Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, California.

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