NASA is making final preparations for its Perseverance Mars rover to collect its first-ever sample of Martian rock, which future planned missions will transport to Earth. The six-wheeled geologist is searching for a scientifically interesting target in a part of Jezero Crater called the "Cratered Floor Fractured Rough."

What

  1. Perseverance landed in Jezero Crater on 18 February 2021 and NASA kicked off the rover mission's science phase on 1 June 2021, exploring a 1.5-square-mile (4-square-kilometer) patch of crater floor that may contain Jezero's deepest and most ancient layers of exposed bedrock.
  2. When Neil Armstrong took the first sample from the Sea of Tranquility 52 years ago, he began a process that would rewrite what humanity knew about the Moon.
  3. It took Armstrong 3 minutes and 35 seconds to collect that first Moon sample.
  4. Perseverance will require about 11 days to complete its first sampling, as it must receive its instructions from hundreds of millions of miles away while relying on the most complex and capable, as well as the cleanest, mechanism ever to be sent into space - the Sampling and Caching System.
  5. The sampling sequence begins with the rover placing everything necessary for sampling within reach of its 7-foot (2-meter) long robotic arm.
  6. SHERLOC (Scanning Habitable Environments with Raman & Luminescence for Organics & Chemicals), PIXL (Planetary Instrument for X-ray Lithochemistry), and the WATSON (Wide Angle Topographic Sensor for Operations and eNgineering) camera will provide mineral and chemical analysis of the abraded target.
  7. Perseverance's SuperCam and Mastcam-Z instruments, both located on the rover's mast, will also participate. While SuperCam fires its laser at the abraded surface, spectroscopically measuring the resulting plume and collecting other data, Mastcam-Z will capture high-resolution imagery.

Flashback

  1. The Mars 2020 Perseverance mission is the first step in NASA's Mars Sample Return Campaign.
  2. Subsequent NASA missions, now in development in cooperation with the European Space Agency, would send spacecraft to Mars to collect these sealed samples from the surface and return them to Earth for in-depth analysis.
  3. The Mars 2020 Perseverance mission is part of NASA's Moon to Mars exploration approach, which includes Artemis missions to the Moon that will help prepare for human exploration of the Red Planet.