NASA’s Mars 2020 rover, Perseverance, made its first attempt to collect rock samples on August 6, 2021. However, data sent by the rover indicate that no rock was collected during the initial sampling activity. Perseverance carries 43 sample tubes for collecting martian rocks and regolith that will be returned to Earth by future missions for detailed analysis. The Mars 2020 mission was launched on July 30, 2020, and landed in Jezero Crater on February 18, 2021. The landing site contains ancient bedrock and fan-delta deposits rich in clay minerals. Perseverance, accompanied by a helicopter named Ingenuity, has spent the last six months surveying and documenting the terrain and geological features at the landing site to prepare for sample collection.
To collect samples, the Sampling and Caching System on the rover uses a percussive drill with a hollow coring bit on its robotic arm to break up rocky material and place it into a sample tube. Initial assessment of the sampling effort shows that the Sampling and Caching System hardware functioned nominally, but no sample was detected in the tube. A response team has been assembled and is conducting analyses to diagnose the reason for this, which may be related to the unanticipated properties of the rock itself. Their results will guide future sample collection attempts.
One of the major objectives of the Mars 2020 mission is to search for habitable conditions on Mars, including biosignatures such as the presence of water or ancient life. Perseverance will collect samples from regions such as ancient delta deposits, where past conditions may have been suitable for life. The samples collected by Perseverance will be stored and brought back to Earth by future missions from NASA in collaboration with the European Space Agency. The samples are expected to be returned to Earth as early as 2031. READ MORE