There are at present plenty of rovers, landers, and orbiters exploring Mars, gathering extra info than ever earlier than in regards to the planet’s setting and its historical past. However to know extra about this place and significantly whether or not there was ever life there, we have to convey samples again from Mars to Earth for evaluation right here. That’s what NASA goals to do over the following decade with its Mars Pattern Return plan.
As a part of that plan, the Perseverance rover is gathering samples of rock and regolith because it explores the Jezero Crater. These samples are then sealed in tubes that are deposited on the martian floor, able to be collected and introduced again to Earth by a future mission.
Perseverance will quickly start stashing these tubes in a “pattern depot,” which can ultimately maintain 10 tubes deposited over round one month. The situation for the depot needed to be fastidiously chosen so will probably be accessible by future missions, as the present plan is to have the samples retrieved both by rover or by helicopter.
Impressed by the success of the Mars helicopter Ingenuity, the concept is that a number of pattern restoration helicopters might ferry the samples between their present location and a retrieval lander. However this requires the depot to be in a flat space with none hazards like giant rocks with loads of secure for take-offs and landings.
Particular person tubes additionally should be fastidiously positioned throughout the depot space. As every helicopter can solely choose up one tube at a time, the tubes can’t merely be left in a giant pile. As a substitute, every tube must be positioned in its personal location a number of meters broad, spaced in a zig-zag sample. The necessity for exact placement is why it can take Perseverance round one month to put all of the tubes.
Included within the present number of samples are plenty of kinds of rocks from round Jezero, in addition to samples of the dusty Mars soil referred to as regolith. There may be additionally a management tube referred to as a witness tube, which doesn’t include any rock however does include a pattern of the ambiance to test for any contaminants.
“The samples for this depot – and the duplicates held aboard Perseverance – are an unimaginable set consultant of the realm explored through the prime mission,” stated Meenakshi Wadhwa, the Mars Pattern Return program principal scientist from Arizona State College, in a assertion. “We not solely have igneous and sedimentary rocks that document a minimum of two and probably 4 or much more distinct types of aqueous alteration, but in addition regolith, ambiance, and a witness tube.”