The rover's primary mission is to collect such samples for the NASA-ESA (European Space Agency) Mars Sample Return campaign.
NASA’s Perseverance rover achieved another milestone on its Martian expedition by acquiring its intriguing 20th rock core sample from Mars on June 23. This unique sample, gathered from an outcrop of small rocks known as a conglomerate, promises an abundance of information about the Red Planet’s geological history.
Conglomerates: Messengers of Martian History
This particular conglomerate, affectionately named “Emerald Lake” by the NASA team, is a sedimentary rock composed of minuscule rock fragments that were transported by an ancient Martian river and cemented at their current location. Each individual fragment could provide critical insights into Mars’s geological past and regions the rover may never reach.
“Pebbles and boulders found in a river are messengers from afar,” shared Ken Farley, the Perseverance project scientist from Caltech in Pasadena. “Though the Martian riverbed that Perseverance explores dried up billions of years ago, the narrative it left behind is captured in the conglomerate rock.”
A Core Sample for Earthly Analysis
The rover’s primary mission is to collect such samples for the NASA-ESA (European Space Agency) Mars Sample Return campaign. These samples will be brought back to Earth for detailed examination using sophisticated lab equipment that cannot be taken to Mars. Scientists anticipate examining each pebble and fragment within the “Otis Peak” core to determine their age, the environmental conditions present when the conglomerate formed, and any signs of ancient microbial life.
Continuing the Expedition
In its third science campaign, Perseverance now investigates the peak of a 130-feet-tall fan-shaped sediment deposit. After safely storing the “Otis Peak” sample, the rover sets its sight on a lower ridge known as Snowdrift Peak. This journey involves navigating through a field of boulders believed to have been transported to their current location billions of years ago by a Martian river.
Intriguingly, these boulders, much like the rock fragments in the Otis Peak sample, provide an opportunity for scientists to visually examine many potentially different rocks in a single image. The team is poised and ready for any discoveries that might require closer scrutiny.
“Whether the boulders warrant a closer look and possible sampling remains to be seen—literally,” said Farley. “We’re emulating the methods of past prospectors who often examined rivers for signs of upstream gold or diamond deposits. Let the river do the work.”
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