NASA's Perseverance rover landed in Jezero Crater in February, where scientists found evidence that an ancient lake and river delta was once present. The rover has explored a total of 1.5 square miles in the area of the crater of "Cratered Floor Fractured Rough" in search of the crater's deepest and oldest layers of rock.
Now, the Perseverance rover prepares to collect its first Martian rock sample that will be packaged in a sealed tube that will be sent to Earth by missions in the 2030s.
Scientists said that studying the Red Planet's surface materials in sophisticated laboratories will give some insights into whether Mars could host life in the past.
Perseverance Rover to Collect First Martian Samples Within the Next Two Weeks
According to BBC News, the Perseverance rover has driven 3,000ft (1km) south from where it landed ad has now stopped at the Paver Stones to collect the pale-colored Martian rock samples, which scientists believed to represent the base of Jezero Crater, within the next two weeks.
They want to determine whether these Paver Stones are volcanic or sedimentary rocks. Although either type is interesting, scientists could date with very high precision and accuracy if the quality of rock samples is proven to be volcanic to know the timing of events that may have happened on the Red Planet.
The rover will first abrade the surface to remove the dust from the chosen part of Paver Stone and then examine the site using its scientific tools. On Perseverance's 7-foot (2 meters) long robotic arm, a drill will help the rover collect AMrtian rock samples and place them inside the caching system, CNN reported.
The collection process is estimated to take about 11 days, which is a lot longer than when Neil Armstrong collected the first lunar sample that only took 3 minutes and 35 seconds.
Finally, these samples will be packaged in a tube to be collected by missions in the 2030s.
How Perseverance Rover Will Send Martian Rock Samples to Earth?
According to CBS News, NASA has prepared a plan to send the collected Martian rock samples to Earth. This plan is called the Mars Sample Return (MS) that involves three missions in the next ten years.
"The idea of bringing a sample back from Mars goes back decades," Ken Farley, Mars 2020 mission's project scientist, said in February as quoted by Phys.org. "We are in a position now where if everything goes according to plan, samples will be coming back to Earth in 2031. That sounds like a long time, but this becoming a reality has always been 10 years away since I was in grad school. Now we are actually doing it."
The team said that the Perseverance rover resembles its sibling rovers except that it was larger and heavier. The team of scientists working on the rover had to replace its onboard laboratory with a sample-catching system for storing collected rocks and soil samples to prepare them for the return trip to Earth.
Check out more news and information on Perseverance Rover in Science Times.