The Perseverance rover is about to build the first depot of its kind on Mars | CNN
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The Perseverance rover is about to build the first repository of rock and soil samples on another planet. The creation of a bunker site is a milestone in the complex preparation to return the first rocks and dirt from Mars to Earth by 2033.
Within days, the rover will begin dropping some of its sample tubes, which contain chalk-sized cores of rock and sediment collected from the surface of Mars, into the repository in an area called Three Forks in Jezero Crater.
The ten tubes will drop about 2.9 feet (88.4 cm) from the rover’s belly and land in various areas of the flat, rock-free terrain of Three Forks over the next 30 days.
The rover has been collecting pairs of samples from the rocks it excavated, and is storing a backup set as a precaution.
The Mars Sample Return Program, run by NASA and the European Space Agency, will be an effort to land on Mars, retrieve samples and return them to Earth over the next decade.
“The samples from this repository — and duplicates on board Perseverance — are an impressive collection that is representative of the area explored during the main mission,” Meenakshi Wadhwa, principal scientist for the Mars Sample Return Program, said in a statement.
“Not only do we have igneous and sedimentary rocks that record at least two, maybe four or even more different patterns of water change, but also regolith, atmosphere, and pipe witness,” Wadhwa said. Also director of Arizona State University’s School of Earth and Space Exploration, pointing to examples from igneous and sedimentary rocks, rocks altered by water, surface dust, and even the Martian atmosphere.
Perseverance is a rock and soil collector as she searches the site of an ancient lake that existed billions of years ago. This material could contain evidence of earlier microscopic organisms that would reveal whether life ever existed on Mars. Scientists will use some of the most advanced tools to study these precious specimens.
Initially, the plan was to launch the rover, along with the sample lander, in the mid-2020s. Once launched on Mars, the rover would have retrieved samples from where Perseverance stashed them.
Now, the persistence will be the primary mode of transport for transferring the samples to the probe. The latest evaluation of the rover shows that it is still in perfect condition for sample delivery In 2030. Perseverance will return to the lander, and the lander’s robotic arm will transfer samples.
The Sample Recovery Helicopter will carry two sample recovery helicopters, similar to the Ingenuity helicopter currently on Mars – rather than a fetch rover.
The engineers were impressed with the innovation’s performance. The helicopter has more than a year out of its expected life and is about to perform its 37th flight. In the event that Perseverance is unable to return the samples to the lander, small helicopters will fly away from the lander, and use booms to retrieve and return the samples.
“So far, Mars missions require only one good landing area. We need 11,” Richard Cook, Mars Sample Return Program manager at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, said in a statement.
“The first is for the sampler unit, but then we need 10 more aircraft in the vicinity for our sample recovery helicopters to perform takeoffs and landings, and drive as well.”
The Mars sample return team is also focusing on what pattern Perseverance will use to drop its samples.
“You can’t simply drop it in a big pile because helicopters are designed to only interact with one tube at a time,” Cook said.
The rover will drop tubes in an intricate zigzag scheme, allowing enough space around each drop zone to make sure helicopters can pick them up if needed.
The sample retrieval vehicle also carries the Mars Ascent Vehicle – the first rocket to be launched from the surface of Mars, with samples safely placed inside. The spacecraft is scheduled to launch from Mars in 2031. A separate mission will launch from Earth in the mid-2020s, called Earth Return Orbiter, to rendezvous with the Mars Ascent Vehicle.
On board the Earth Return Orbiter is a system that collects the sample container from the Mars Ascent Vehicle while both vehicles are in orbit around the Red Planet.
After that, the Earth return probe will return to our planet. Once the spacecraft is close to Earth, it will launch a containing vehicle sample cache, and that spacecraft will land on Earth in 2033.
The main Perseverance mission will end on January 6 — nearly two years (and one Mars year) after landing on the Red Planet. But the rover’s journey isn’t over yet.
“We will still be working on deploying the sample when our expanded mission begins on (January 7), so nothing changes from that perspective,” JPL Perseverance project manager Art Thompson said in a statement. “However, once the tables are set at Three Forks, we will head to the top of the delta. The science team wants to take a closer look there.”
Perseverance will move to its new science operations, called the Delta Top Campaign, in the new year. The rover will finish climbing the steep bank of an ancient river delta that once emptied into Jezero Crater Lake billions of years ago and reach the upper surface of the delta in February.
For the next eight months, Perseverance will search for additional rocks and materials for the river Maybe I got pregnant Other parts of Mars were deposited in the delta.
“The Delta Top campaign is our opportunity to peek into the geological process beyond the walls of Jezero Crater,” Katie Stack Morgan, deputy project scientist for Perseverance at JPL, said in a statement.
Billions of years ago, a raging river carried debris and rocks from miles outside the walls of Jezero. We will explore these ancient river deposits and get samples of their rocks and boulders that have been cut over long distances.”
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