NASA’s Perseverance Mars rover sealed a tube containing a 20th rock core sample on June 23 (the 832nd Martian day, or mission sol). Sample was drilled by the mars rover from an outcrop made up of small pieces of other rocks that were carried down a river from somewhere in the distant past and deposited here where they coalesced.
Conglomerates like this one (nicknamed “Emerald Lake” by the team) contain a wealth of information about places the rover may never visit, with each new rock fragment presenting a geologic story to be told.
Ken Farley, Perseverance Project Scientist at Caltech in Pasadena says “The pebbles and boulders found in the river are messengers from afarr, the water that created the Martian river bed that Perseverance is currently exploring evaporated billions of years ago, the story carried by those waters remains fresh, stored in the conglomerate rock.”
Perseverance collects these samples so they can be brought back to Earth by the NASA-ESA (European Space Agency) Mars Sample Return campaign and examined by laboratory equipment too large and complex to bring them to Mars.
Scientists will be able to look at every pebble and fragment in this core, called “Otis Peak,” to determine details such as its age, what environmental conditions were in the river when the conglomerate formed, and whether it contains signs of ancient microbial life.
Now in its third science campaign, Perseverance is exploring the top of a fan-shaped pile of sedimentary rock that is 130 feet (40 meters) high. With this sample sealed and stored in its belly, the rover is on its way to a low ridge called “Snowdrift Peak”. To get there, he will have to overcome a field of boulders.
As with the rock fragments in the Otis Peak sample, scientists believe the boulders likely formed elsewhere and were transported to their current location billions of years ago by an ancient river. Boulders are also desirable because their large surface area allows scientists to visually examine many potentially different rocks in a single image. So the team will keep their options open, ready to stop for anything that piques their curiosity.
More about the mission of Mars Rover
A key focus of the Perseverance mission on Mars is astrobiology, including depositing 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 preserve Martian rock and regolith.
Subsequent missions by NASA, in collaboration with ESA, will send a 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 lunar exploration approach to Mars, which includes the Artemis lunar missions to help prepare for human exploration of the Red Planet. NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, managed by Caltech for the agency, built and operates the Perseverance rover.