NASA Perseverance Collects Its First Martian Sample In A New Research Effort

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NASA's Mars Perseverance rover continues its exploration of the Red Planet, as it begins a new science campaign. The rover took its first core sample of the new campaign at the top of Jezero Crater's delta on March 30, 2023.

Since launching back in July 2020, NASA's Perseverance rover has been surveying and probing the Martian surface in search of microbial life. The rover has been investigating Jezero Crater, a portion of Mars that scientists believe has the highest probability of finding ancient life. The current campaign has the rover drilling in an area the team calls "Berea."

Scientists believe that Berea is formed from rock deposits that were carried downstream to this location by an ancient river. As such, the team believes the area could hold evidence of the planet's distant past from far beyond the Jezero Crater.

Katie Stack Morgan, Deputy Project Scientist for Perseverance at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Southern California, says another reason this area of Mars is so promising is that the rock is rich in carbonate. She added, "Carbonate rocks on Earth can be good at preserving fossilized lifeforms. If biosignatures were present in this part of Jezero Crater, it could be a rock like this one that could very well hold their secrets."

Perseverance collected its 19th sample by abrading a circular patch into the surface in order for its science instruments to analyze the rock's composition. The rock core it collected was around the size of a piece of classroom chalk, and then sealed in an "ultra-clean sample tube." The rover's subsystem consists of a coring drill on its arm and a rack of sample titanium tubes in its chassis.

NASA and the European Space Agency plan to retrieve the samples Perseverance has collected and return them to Earth for detailed study. That mission is currently planned to take place in the early to mid-2030s.