NASA's Perseverance rover drops another sample tube on Mars surface
Earlier this week, NASA's Mars Perseverance rover dropped its first sample tube on the Martian surface. Just two days later, the rover placed another tube containing a fragment of sedimentary rock from the edge of an ancient river delta on the Red Planet.
Over the next two months, the rover will place a total of 10 sample tubes at Three Forks, a region of Jezero Crater, creating the first sample depot on a foreign planet ever made by humans. The depot will mark a crucial milestone in the NASA-ESA Mars Sample Return (MSR) campaign that aims to bring scientifically selected Martian samples to Earth for detailed analysis.
My second sample drop is looking good! This tube holds a piece of sedimentary rock from the edge of the ancient river delta here – the longest rock core I’ve taken to date.More on each of my samples: https://t.co/SuSfqeBI37 pic.twitter.com/3YTSxPlh4z— NASA's Perseverance Mars Rover (@NASAPersevere) December 23, 2022
In a series of tweets, the mission team also explained why they aren't worried about the samples the rover is putting down - Could the Martian wind blow them away, or gradually bury them beneath the soil?
The Perseverance mission team is optimistic that the sample tubes will remain uncovered. They are also meticulously recording the exact location of where the rover is placing the tubes so that retrieving them in the future should not be a problem.
In the event that the Perseverance rover does not succeed in delivering its samples directly to the lander, the depot will serve as a backup. In such a case, two Ingenuity-inspired Sample Recovery Helicopters would be called upon to complete the task.
According to Richard Cook, MSR program manager at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Southern California, these sample tubes will be arranged in a complex zigzag pattern on the Martian surface, with each sample spaced 16 to 49 feet (5 to 15 meters) away from the next. This is because the recovery helicopters can interact with only one tube at a time.