Perseverance Has Collected Samples from One of the Best Places to Search for Ancient Life on Mars

NASA’s Perseverance rover puts its robotic arm to work around a rocky outcrop called “Skinner Ridge” in Mars’ Jezero Crater. Composed of multiple images, this mosaic shows layered sedimentary rocks in the face of a cliff in the delta, as well as one o... Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/ASU/MSSS

Scientists with NASA’s Perseverance Mars rover said today that the rover has collected several “tantalizing” organic rock samples from an ancient river delta on the Red Planet. These samples have now been stowed for a planned future mission that hopes to retrieve the specimens and bring them back to Earth for the first-ever sample return from Mars.

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NASA Gives a Detailed Analysis of all the Landing Debris Perseverance Has Found on Mars

A recent blog by Dr. Justin Maki, Imaging Scientist and the Deputy Principal Investigator on the Perseverance rover Mastcam-Z camera, provides a detailed account about the debris the entry, descent, and landing (EDL) system left scattered around the Martian surface while delivering the Perseverance rover to Jezero Crater. This blog highlights how much hardware goes into sending our brave, robotic explorers to the Red Planet while discussing the importance of imaging such debris.

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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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The Mars Sample Return Mission Will Take Two Helicopters to the Red Planet to Help Retrieve Samples

NASA’s upcoming Mars Sample Return mission plan just received a glow-up: it will now carry a pair of twin helicopters, each capable of retrieving samples and delivering them to the ascent vehicle for return to Earth.

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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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Perseverance is Searching for the Perfect Landing Spot for the Upcoming Sample Return Mission

NASA’s car-sized Perseverance (Percy) Mars rover has been had at work carrying out its science campaign in Jezero Crater on the Red Planet, but it’s equally been busy scouting for sites for NASA’s planned Mars Sample Return (MSR) mission, which is a joint mission with the European Space Agency. One of the many tasks for Percy has been to collect sample tubes that MSR will eventually return to Earth for further analysis, having collected its ninth sample on July 6. This most recent sample is especially intriguing as it’s the first taken from the Jezero’s delta itself, which is believed to be one of the most ideal locations to search for past life on the Red Planet.

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Mars Rovers Will Need to Dig Deeper If They Want to Find Evidence of Life

The search for life—even ancient life—on Mars is trickier than we thought. In a recent study published in the journal Astrobiology, researchers have determined that NASA’s Mars Perseverance (Percy) Rover will have to dig two meters (6.6 feet) beneath the Martian surface in order to find traces of ancient life. This is because the surface of Mars is constantly bombarded with extreme levels of solar radiation that scientists hypothesize would quickly degrade small molecules such as amino acids. The reason for this extreme level of radiation is due to the absence of a magnetic field, which scientists believe was stripped away billions of years ago when the planet’s liquid outer core ceased to produce the dynamo that created the field.

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Dust Devils and Strong Winds Produce the Constant Haze on Mars

Dust is an everyday feature on Mars and wreaks havoc on various pieces of equipment humans decide to send to it, such as Insight’s continual loss of power or the losses of Opportunity and Spirit. But we’ve never really understood what causes the dust to get up into the air in the first place. That equipment that is so affected by it usually isn’t set up to monitor it, or if it is, it has been sent to a place where there isn’t much dust, to begin with. Now, that has changed with new readings from Perseverance in Jerezo crater, and the answer shouldn’t be much of a surprise – dust devils seem to cause some of the dust in the atmosphere on Mars. But strong winds contribute a significant amount too.

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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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