Mars: The Perseverance rover is almost ready to begin the first collection of rock samples from Mars that will be transported to Earth. In a statement released this Wednesday (21), NASA confirmed that work will begin in the next two weeks.
The material will be collected south of the Jezero crater, where the mission landed on the Red Planet in February — scientists believe that the oldest stones in the region may be there. The experiment begins with an image survey carried out by the team, which will determine the exact location of the first collection.
Then, the scientific instruments of the robotic arm of the rover come into action, analyzing the composition of the rocks. He will drill a hole in the chosen unit, blow out the dust with compressed air and take a deeper look into the material, performing a geological analysis unprecedented in space missions.
The next step is to collect a sample of the same rock in another area. Afterwards, it will be sealed and stored in the six-wheeled laboratory, where it will remain until a place for deposit on the Martian surface is defined. A rescue mission should be launched by 2026, with a return scheduled for 2030, when the material will be analyzed on Earth.
Visiting other regions
Searching for signs of ancient life on Mars will include other areas around the mission landing site. According to the American space agency, the regions known as “Raised Ridges” to the west, seen during the Ingenuity helicopter flight, and “Three Forks” to the north, will also be visited by Perseverance.
The work of collecting each sample should take about 11 days, as it depends on sending commands that need to travel hundreds of millions of kilometers to reach the rover. By way of comparison, astronaut Neil Armstrong took three minutes and 35 seconds to collect the first moon sample in 1969.