it’s done ! After a failed first attempt last month, the persistent US rover successfully drilled and collected a sample of Martian rocks in perfect condition. This tiny carrot, which will be brought back to Earth in the early 2000s, may contain traces of past microbial life.
This time is the occasion
The first attempt made on Thursday August 5th was not like that Didn’t go as planned. It turns out that the rock in which Persfrance was dug was much softer than the researchers had imagined. Then the “carrot” simply crumbled into powder under the pits.
There were many warning signs that the target rock on that first try might not be the most promising. Its brown color already indicates the presence of rust. It was also full of holes and contained a lot of salt. This means that this rock has developed in an aqueous medium for a very long time. Analysis of the mineral changes caused by water could have taught us a lot about ancient Mars, both hot and humid. However, the rusty, salty rock full of holes is also a friable rock.
Note that the August 6 operation was not a waste of time. The tube actually contains sealed, unpolluted Martian air. So his analysis can be invaluable.
This time is the occasion. Perseverance (or “Percy,” for close friends) actually succeeded in taking its first Martian sample from a rock called Rochette, located on a ridge slightly higher than the surrounding landscape.
“We picked the hardest rock you can find out there”, underline in times Dr. Kenneth A. Farley, De California Institute of Technology. “This block has stood for ages and was not eroded by wind, which is strong evidence that it was not friable”.
A sample full of promises
After it has been measured and re-photographed, the tube will eventually be closed tightly and stored in the perseverance womb. In a few years, the rover will drop its sample to Earth, where it will be picked up by another rover being sent to Mars as part of a future joint mission between NASA and the European Space Agency.
This tube, and many others, will then be returned to Earth for analysis. Inside, scientists hope to find traces of ancient life, possibly microbial. The recently captured rock, which looks like a solid piece of lava, can also be accurately dated.
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