The ‘perseverant’ rover still has eleven days left on its mission to Mars to sample ancient microbial life.
The mission is not yet complete: The Perseverance spacecraft has failed in its first attempt to collect rock samples on the Red Planet. The US space agency NASA released images of a small bridge with a hole in the middle on Friday (local time) – the first image excavated by a robot on the surface of Mars. However, data provided by the rover indicates that no rocks were collected from the craters.
This is not “the blow we had hoped for, but entering a new area always carries certain risks,” said Thomas Zurbuchen, a NASA scientist. But the responsible NASA team will now work on a “solution” for sample collection: “I’m confident we have the right team for this project.”
Drilling is the first step in the sample collection process which is expected to take eleven days. The goal is to search for traces of ancient microbial life that may have been preserved in ancient lake sediments. Scientists also hope to gain a better understanding of the geological conditions on Mars. The plan is to collect about 30 samples over several years.
The roughly the size of a car off-road rover “Perseverance” landed in Jezero crater on Mars in February. Scientists believe that there was a deep lake there about 3.5 billion years ago, which emptied and refilled several times over time and provided suitable conditions for organic life.
However, it will be years before scientists can analyze the samples themselves: NASA does not plan a joint mission with the European Space Agency (ESA) to return the samples to Earth until 2030. There they must be examined for their chemical and mineral composition in order to see if the rocks are from volcanic origin or whether they are sedimentary rocks.
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