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Tuesday, September 28, 2021

‘I’ve got it’: NASA confirms Perseverance has captured its first Mars rock samples

Perseverance arrived in February at Mars’ Jezero Crater in search of rocks that might hold evidence of ancient life.

By: Science Desk | Kochi |
Updated: September 7, 2021 12:02:29 pm
Perseverance’s first cored-rock samplePerseverance’s first cored-rock sample is visible inside this titanium sample collection tube in this image taken on Sept. 6, 2021. (NASA/JPL-Caltech)

NASA announced yesterday that Perseverance rover has completed the collection of Martian rock samples from Jezero Crater and the samples have been sealed in an airtight titanium tube.

“NASA has a history of setting ambitious goals and then accomplishing them, reflecting our nation’s commitment to discovery and innovation,” NASA Administrator Bill Nelson said in a release. “This is a momentous achievement and I can’t wait to see the incredible discoveries produced by Perseverance and our team.”

“For all of NASA science, this is truly a historic moment,” said Thomas Zurbuchen, associate administrator for science at NASA Headquarters in Washington.

“Just as the Apollo Moon missions demonstrated the enduring scientific value of returning samples from other worlds for analysis here on our planet, we will be doing the same with the samples Perseverance collects as part of our Mars Sample Return program. Using the most sophisticated science instruments on Earth, we expect jaw-dropping discoveries across a broad set of science areas, including an exploration into the question of whether life once existed on Mars.”

The collection process began on September 1. “With over 3,000 parts, the Sampling and Caching System is the most complex mechanism ever sent into space,” said Larry D. James, interim director of JPL.

“Getting the first sample under our belt is a huge milestone,” Perseverance Project Scientist Ken Farley of Caltech said.

“When we get these samples back on Earth, they are going to tell us a great deal about some of the earliest chapters in the evolution of Mars. But however geologically intriguing the contents of sample tube 266 will be, they won’t tell the complete story of this place. There is a lot of Jezero Crater left to explore, and we will continue our journey in the months and years ahead,” he added.

Perseverance was launched on July 30, 2020 and arrived in February at Mars’ Jezero Crater to search for evidence of ancient life. Perseverance will spend one Mars year or two Earth years and explore the crater. Perseverance has seven primary instruments and advanced camera systems. One of the most interesting instruments aboard the rover is called MOXIE or the Mars Oxygen In-Situ Resource Utilization Experiment. In its first operation, MOXIE produced 5 grams of oxygen from carbon dioxide in the Martian atmosphere, enough for an astronaut to breathe for 10 minutes.

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