NASA’s perseverance rover collects first Mars rock samples

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The rover, which collected the material from the inside of a rock, beamed back the confirmation to Nasa’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL)…reports Asian Lite News.

Decades after exploring the barren surface of Mars from millions of kilometres away, humans will soon get their hands on the Martian regolith (surface material) thanks to an SUV sized astrobiologist trundling on the Red Planet. The rover — Nasa’s Perseverance — has now successfully collected, processed and sealed the first samples from the Martian surface to be brought to Earth for deeper analysis.

The rover, which collected the material from the inside of a rock, beamed back the confirmation to Nasa’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL). The core is now enclosed in an airtight titanium sample tube, making it available for retrieval in the future.

Both Nasa and the European Space Agency (ESA) are planning a series of missions to bring back these samples to Earth that will be a watershed moment in interplanetary exploration. “These samples would be the first set of scientifically identified and selected materials returned to our planet from another,” Nasa said in a statement.

The Perseverance rover has been trundling on the surface of Mars to look for signs of ancient microbial life in the Jazero crater, believed to be the site of an ancient lake. The sample gathering began on September 1, when the rotary percussive drill at the end of Perseverance’s robotic arm cored into a flat, briefcase-size Mars rock nicknamed “Rochette.”

According to Nasa, after successfully drilling into the rock the arm manoeuvred the corer, bit, and sample tube so the rover’s Mastcam-Z camera instrument could image the contents of the still-unsealed tube and transmit the results back to Earth. Once engineers confirmed successful coring commands were sent for processing and the rover transferred sample tube serial number 266 and its Martian cargo into the rover’s interior before hermetically sealing the container.

NASA has a history of setting ambitious goals and then accomplishing them, reflecting our nation’s commitment to discovery and innovation. This is a momentous achievement and I can’t wait to see the incredible discoveries produced by Perseverance and our team,” NASA Administrator Bill Nelson said.

The rover is currently exploring the rocky outcrops and boulders of “Artuby,” a ridgeline of more than a half-mile (900 meters) bordering two geologic units believed to contain Jezero Crater’s deepest and most ancient layers of exposed bedrock.

When the Martian regolith returns to Earth, it will be the first unique material to arrive home from an alien planet. It’s, however, not the first sample from an alien source to reach Earth. Nasa has successfully brought regolith and surface material from the Moon in the past and is now awaiting the first samples from an asteroid.

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