The Mars Sample Return Mission is one of the most ambitious missions ever conceived. Though the samples won’t be returned to Earth until 2033 at the earliest, the Perseverance Rover is busy collecting them right now. Ideally, Perseverance could gather as many samples as we like and ship them all back to Earth. But of course, that’s not possible.
There are limitations, and this means that choosing which samples to return to Earth is an extremely critical task.
There’s a reason Jezero Crater was chosen as the landing site for the Perseverance Rover: it is considered one of the likeliest places to find any evidence if Mars was ever habitable for long periods of time. In this great new flyby video from ESA, you can get a birds-eye look at Perseverance’s home.
Created from data ESA’s Mars Express and NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter, the video takes you on an aerial tour of the crater. From this perspective, you can see the water features in this ancient impact crater and understand why this was considered one of the best places to explore Mars.
NASA’s Perseverance Rover has reached another milestone. It’s finished caching its samples for a potential return to Earth. The sample depot is located in Mars’ Jezero Crater, where Perseverance is busy searching for signs of ancient life.
The asteroids in our Solar System are survivors. They’ve withstood billions of years of collisions. The surviving asteroids are divided into two groups: monolithic asteroids, which are intact chunks of planetesimals, and rubble piles, which are made of up fragments of shattered primordial asteroids.
It turns out there are far more rubble pile asteroids than we thought, and that raises the difficulty of protecting Earth from asteroid strikes.
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.”
At this point in its mission, NASA’s Mars Perseverance Rover has collected almost 50% of its samples. The rover is now building its first sample ‘depot’ on the surface of Mars. The depot is a flat, obstacle-free area with 11 separate landing circles, one for each sample tube and one for the lander.
A future mission will retrieve these samples by helicopter.
NASA has granted mission extensions to eight different planetary missions, citing the continued excellent operations of the spacecraft, but more importantly, the sustained scientific productivity of these missions, “and the potential to deepen our knowledge and understanding of the solar system and beyond.” Each mission will be extended for three more years.
NASA’s Perseverance Rover is busy exploring Jezero Crater on Mars. Part of its mission is to collect samples for retrieval by a future mission. NASA and the ESA haven’t determined where the sample return mission will land yet.
That depends on the Perseverance mission and how it spends the rest of its time on Mars. But we know of one possible—albeit ambitious—landing spot: just west of Jezero Crater.
NASA’s Apollo missions to the Moon brought back about 382 kilograms (842 pounds) of samples, including rocks, rock cores, rock, pebbles, sand, and dust. Scientists have studied those samples intently over the decades and have learned a lot. But they haven’t studied all of the samples.
In an impressive act of foresight, NASA left some of the samples unopened and in pristine condition. Why? Because they knew the technology used to study the samples would only improve over the decades.
In early September, the Perseverance rover successfully used its robotic arm and drill to drill into a rock and extract a sample. It extracted a rock core about 6 cm (2 in) long and placed it inside a sealed tube. This is the first time a robotic spacecraft has collected a sample from another planet destined for a return to Earth on a separate spacecraft.
Now we wait for the eventual return of the sample to Earth.