Collecting Samples of Mars: The NASA Perseverance Rover’s role in Mars Sample Return

Chris Herd, Professor, University of Alberta

The NASA Mars 2020 Perseverance rover mission has been exploring Jezero Crater since landing on February 18, 2021. The purpose of the mission is to investigate the geology, evaluate past habitability, look for signs of ancient life, and collect a suite of scientifically compelling samples of rock, regolith, and atmosphere for potential future return to Earth – the latter as part of an international Mars Sample Return campaign. Noachian-aged Jezero Crater was once the site of a delta-lake system with a high potential for habitability. A campaign to explore the floor of Jezero Crater was completed in March 2022, and resulted in the collection of 8 rock cores (representing 4 distinct rocks, collected in pairs) covering the range of igneous rocks that cover the crater floor, as well as a tube containing martian atmosphere, and a witness tube. The rover is now in the Delta Front Campaign, which seeks to characterize the geology of the lowermost rock units in the delta. Collection of representative samples of sedimentary rocks are underway. These samples could be used to look for ancient biosignatures in labs on Earth – a key goal of the Mars Sample Return effort.

Host: Scott VanBommel

Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS

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