Europe Will be Building the Transfer Arm for the Mars Sample Return Mission

The concept for a Mars lander with a Sample Transfer Arm to retrieve and bring samples of Mars dirt and rocks to Earth. Credit: ESA.

Now that the Perseverance rover has dropped off ten regolith and rock sample tubes for a future sample return mission to retrieve, the plans for such a mission are coming together. The mission is a joint venture between NASA and the European Space Agency, and ESA has agreed to build a 2.5-meter-long robotic arm to pick up tubes and then transfer them to a rocket for the first-ever Mars samples to be brought to Earth.

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Perseverance Takes a Selfie to Show off Some of its Samples

The Perseverance Mars rover took a selfie with several of the 10 sample tubes it deposited on the Martian surface. Credit:NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS.

One of the main jobs for the Perseverance Mars rover past few weeks has been collecting carefully selected samples of Mars rock and soil. These samples have been placed and sealed in special sample tubes and left in well-identified places so that a future sample return mission can collect them and bring the Martian samples back to Earth.

Perseverance has now dropped 10 sample tubes and to celebrate, it took a couple of selfies with several of the sample tubes visible in the designated ‘sample depot’ it is creating within an area of Jezero Crater. The area of the depot is nicknamed “Three Forks.”

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Perseverance Heard a Dust Devil on Mars, and Now You Can Too

NASA's Perseverance Mars rover used one of its navigation cameras to capture these dust devils swirling across Jezero Crater on July 20, 2021, the 148th Martian day, or sol, of the mission. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/SSI

For years, we’ve seen images from various Mars rovers and landers of dust devils churning across the dusty landscape of the Red Planet. But now, thanks to a microphone on the Perseverance rover and a whirling dust storm that passed directly over the rover, we know what a dust devil on Mars sounds like, too.

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A Small Piece of “Foreign Object Debris” Fell off Ingenuity’s Leg During its 33rd Flight

A small piece of foreign object debris (FOD) is seen in this image from the navigation camera of NASA's Ingenuity Mars Helicopter during its 33rd flight on Mars on Sept 24, 2022. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech.

We hope this is just as inconsequential as having a piece of toilet paper stuck to your shoe, but images from the Ingenuity helicopter show it had a piece of debris fluttering from its leg during its most recent flight. A blog post from NASA said a small piece of foreign object debris (FOD) was seen in footage from the Mars helicopter’s navigation camera (Navcam) for a portion of its 33rd flight on September 24, 2022.

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Perseverance has Found a ‘Cat Hair’ in its Drill Chuck. What is it?

NASA's Mars Perseverance rover acquired this image using its SHERLOC WATSON camera, located on the turret at the end of the rover's robotic arm. This image was acquired on Aug. 4, 2022 (Sol 517). Credits: NASA/JPL-Caltech. Credits: NASA/JPL-Caltech.

After each use of one of the tools at the end of the Perseverance rover’s arm, the mission’s engineering team always takes images of the tool to make sure everything is still in working order.

Last week the rover’s drill was used to take a core sample from a rock – the 12th such sample that has now been stored and sealed for possible future retrieval in a proposed sample return mission. The team then took images of the drill and sample collection system components. In those images, two small pieces of debris were visible: a small object on the coring bit (which is stored in the bit carousel) and a small hair-like object on the drill chuck.

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A Look Inside One of Perseverance’s Core Holes

A look inside the drill hole from the Perseverance rover's core sample drill. This image is a "focus merge" combination of available non-partial images. NASA/JPL-Caltech/Kevin M. Gill.

Here’s one of the best views you’ll ever see of the insides of a rock on Mars. The hole was made by the Perseverance rover’s drill, a rotary percussive drill designed to extract rock core samples from the surface of Mars. After the sample was taken, Perseverance rover acquired this image using its SHERLOC WATSON camera to take a close-up view of the hole.

This is such a clear image because image editing expert Kevin Gill used a technique called focus merge to get the best view possible. A “focus merge” uses a series of images taken at different focuses, stacks them up and uses whichever pixels are the sharpest. You can see a larger version on Kevin’s Flickr page.

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Weird String-Like Object Found on Mars, Probably Dropped by the Rover

NASA's Mars Perseverance rover acquired this image of the area in front of it using its onboard Front Right Hazard Avoidance Camera A. This image was acquired on July 12, 2022 (Sol 495) at the local mean solar time of 16:56:25. Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

Here’s the best evidence I’ve ever seen for water on Mars: NASA’s Perseverance rover came across a tangled mess of string on Mars, which looks like snarled fishing line left behind by a frustrated angler. Where there’s fishing, there’s gotta be water, right?

Actually, this tiny piece of trash is likely something left over from Perseverance’s parachute, or descent stage or even the backshell, which all worked in tandem to bring the rover safely to the surface of Mars back in February of 2021.  

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A Perfectly Balanced Rock Seen by Perseverance

NASA's Mars Perseverance rover acquired this image using its Right Mastcam-Z camera. Mastcam-Z is a pair of cameras located high on the rover's mast. This image was acquired on June 12, 2022 (Sol 466) at the local mean solar time of 12:20:39. Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/ASU

The Perseverance rover has begun exploring a region that looks a little like Monument Valley in Arizona and Utah in the US, or perhaps like a set on an old sci-fi movie. The rover’s science team has nicknamed the area “Hogwallow Flats,” and the rock formations in this area on Mars are stunning in their varied and sometimes absurd shapes and structures. One wonders what took place here eons ago to create the weird variety of formations.

While small, one feature catches the eye:  a smaller rock that appears to be perfectly perched and balanced on top of a larger rock formation.

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Perseverance Has Been Carrying a Rock in its Wheel for Over 100 Days

NASA's Mars Perseverance rover acquired this image of a rock inside the rover's wheel, along with the area in front of it using its onboard Front Left Hazard Avoidance Camera A. This image was acquired on May 26, 2022 (Sol 449) at the local mean solar time of 15:39:48. Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

Why does a Mars rover have a rock in one of its wheels? Maybe it’s because a rover doesn’t have pockets.

Who among us hasn’t picked up a great rock, carried it around, maybe saved it for a long time, or even placed it somewhere safe or special? The Perseverance rover is doing just that, having carried a random Mars rock in its wheel for quite some time.

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Perseverance is Seeing A LOT of Dust Devils

NASA's Perseverance Mars rover used one of its navigation cameras to capture these dust devils swirling across Jezero Crater on July 20, 2021, the 148th Martian day, or sol, of the mission. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/SSI

While the Mars InSight lander is still waiting for a passing dust devil to clean off its solar panels, it appears the Perseverance rover sees dust devils several times a day.

A new paper detailing the first 216 days of Perseverance’s mission in Jezero Crater reports how the newest rover on Mars appears to be located in a “dust storm track” that runs north to south across the planet. Jezero Crater has particularly high levels of dust and wind activity.

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