NASA’s rover dropped its final sample of Martian dust

NASA’s rover has dropped its last 10 sample tubes on Mars, completing ‘humanity’The first sample repository in another world. The rover began depositing titanium tubes containing samples of rock and dust six weeks ago as part of Mars sample return mission To collect Martian materials and deliver them to Earth for further study.

perseverance landed on Mars In February 2021, it landed inside a 28-mile-wide bowl known as Jezero Crater with a primary mission to search for signs of ancient microbial life and Collect samples from the Martian environment. Scientists believe that billions of years ago, Jezero Crater may have contained a river flowing into a vast lake, which would have provided the environment needed to support microbial life.

The probe is currently carrying 17 raw samples, which the space agency hopes will eventually be delivered to a return lander and returned to Earth. The newly completed sample depot – located in the Three Forks area of ​​Jezero Crater – will serve as a backup cache in case Perseverance is unable to deliver the samples on board. Each tube has been carefully located so that they can be found and collected by two Helicopters are like creativityeven if it is covered in dust.

Perseverance is programmed to carefully knock on any tubes that land perpendicular to their end (as above) to make them easier to pick up on a future mission.
Image: NASA

While the schedule has been set at Three Forks, Perseverance is said to be still in good shape and will now perform an extended mission to explore the nearby Delta Top region. The Delta Top campaign is expected to last about eight months and will investigate rocks and sediments that appear to have been transported to Jezero Crater by an ancient river.

Map showing the locations of each tube within the Mars Return mission sample repository.

This map shows where the Perseverance rover dropped each of its 10 samples into the Three Forks area of ​​Jezero Crater.
Image: NASA

The focus of the main mission now turns to the future retrieval of Martian samples. Defense contractor Lockheed Martin He was tasked with building the Mars Ascent Vehicle (MAV) last year, which is required to lift off from the surface of the Red Planet — making it the first rocket launched from another planet if successful — and pass the collected samples on to a spacecraft being built by the European Space Agency, which will deliver Later the precious cargo is in the hands of excited scientists back on Earth.

NASA currently estimates that the Sample Retrieval Rovers will land by 2028 at the earliest and that the collected samples will not reach Earth until at least 2033.

Obviously, that is much easier said than done. The mission to return a Mars sample is more than a decade of work and requires many incredibly complex steps to succeed, some of which have never been attempted before – such as landing a rocket on Mars capable of taking off again. If the teams behind the mission can successfully carry out these titanic efforts, we’ll be closer than we’ve ever been to knowing whether life exists beyond our planet.

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