The Perseverance rover will build the first reservoir of its kind on Mars

Sign up for CNN’s Wonder Theory science newsletter. Explore the universe with news about fascinating discoveries, scientific breakthroughs and more.


The Perseverance rover is about to build the first rock and soil sample repository on another planet. Establishing a cache site is a milestone in the complex preparation to return the first rocks and soil from Mars to Earth by 2033.

In a matter of days, the rover will begin dumping some of its sample tubes, which contain rock cores and chalk-sized sediment collected from the Martian surface, into the repository in an area dubbed Three Forks in Jezero crater.

The green circles indicate the locations of various sample delivery sites on Mars.

The 10 tubes will drop about 2.9 feet (88.4 centimeters) from the rover’s belly and touch down at different spots on level, rock-free ground in Three Forks over the next 30 days.

The rover has been collecting sample pairs from the rocks it has drilled into, hiding a backup set as a precaution.

The Mars Sample Return ProgramLed jointly by NASA and the European Space Agency, it will be an effort to land on Mars, retrieve the samples, and return them to Earth over the next decade.

“The samples for this repository, and the duplicates found aboard Perseverance, are an incredible set representative of the area explored during the main mission,” Meenakshi Wadhwa, principal scientist for the Mars Sample Return program, said in a statement.

“Not only do we have igneous and sedimentary rocks that record at least two and possibly four or even more distinct styles of aqueous alteration, but also regolithatmosphere and a test tubeWadhwa said, also director of the School of Earth and Space Exploration at Arizona State University, referring to examples of volcanic and sedimentary rocks, rocks that have been altered by water, surface dust, and even the Martian atmosphere.

Perseverance took a photo of a future depot in an area dubbed Three Forks on December 14.

Perseverance is collecting rocks and dirt while investigating the site of an ancient lake that existed billions of years ago. This material could contain evidence of microscopic organisms from the past that would reveal whether life ever existed on Mars. Scientists will use some of the most sophisticated instruments to study these valuable samples.

Initially, the the plan was to launch a rover fetchalong with a Sample Retrieval Lander, in the mid-2020s. Once released on the Martian surface, the search rover would have retrieved samples from where Perseverance stashed them.

Now, Perseverance will be the main transport vehicle for bringing samples to the lander. The latest evaluation of the rover shows that it should still be in optimal condition to deliver samples. in 2030. Perseverance will return to the lander and the lander’s robotic arm will transfer the samples.

The Sample Retrieval Lander will carry two sample retrieval helicopters, similar in style to the Ingenuity helicopter currently on Mars, instead of a search rover.

Engineers have been impressed with Ingenuity’s performance. The helicopter has survived more than a year beyond its expected useful life and is about to make its 37th flight. In the event that Perseverance is unable to return the samples to the lander, the small helicopters will fly away from the lander. , they will use their arms to retrieve the samples and bring them back.

Perseverance has collected a diverse set of samples during its journey thus far.

“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 Pasadena, California, in a statement.

“The first one is for the Sample Retrieval Lander, but then we need 10 more in the vicinity for our Sample Recovery Helicopters to do takeoffs and landings, and also drive.”

The Mars Sample Return team is also focused on the pattern that Perseverance will use to drop its samples.

This illustration shows the team of robots and spacecraft that will return Martian samples to Earth.

“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 rover will drop the tubes in an intricate zigzag pattern, leaving enough space around each drop zone to ensure helicopters can pick them up if necessary.

Perseverance's investigation of Jezero Crater has revealed formations like Betty's Rock.

The Sample Retrieval Lander also carries the Mars Ascent Vehicle, the first rocket to be launched from the Martian surface, with the samples safely stowed inside. The spacecraft will launch from Mars in 2031. A separate mission will launch from Earth in the mid-2020s, called the Earth Return Orbiter, to rendezvous with the Mars Ascent Vehicle.

Perseverance used his robotic arm camera to take a detailed photo of Betty's Rock.

On board the Earth Return Orbiter is a system that will collect the sample container from the Mars Ascent Vehicle while both vehicles are in orbit around the red planet.

The Earth Return Orbiter will then return to our planet. Once the spacecraft is close to Earth, it will release a vehicle containing the sample cache, and that spacecraft will land on Earth in 2033.

Perseverance’s main mission will end on January 6, almost two years (and a Mars year) after it touched down on the red planet. But the rover’s journey isn’t over yet.

“We will continue to work on deploying the sample repository when our extended mission begins on (January 7), so nothing changes from that perspective,” Art Thompson, Perseverance project manager at JPL, said in a statement. “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.

Perseverance will transition to its new science operations, called the Delta Top Campaign, in the new year. The rover will finish climbing the steep bank of an ancient river delta that once emptied into Jezero Crater Lake billions of years ago and will reach the upper surface of the delta in February.

This map shows the planned route Perseverance will take across the upper delta of Jezero Crater in 2023.

Over the next eight months, Perseverance will search for rocks and additional material that the river may have led from other parts of Mars and deposited in the 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, deputy project scientist for Perseverance at JPL, in a statement.

“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.”

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *