The Perseverance rover has been hard at work since it arrived on Mars last February, along with the Ingenuity helicopter.
The Mars rover of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) has successfully collected three samples as of writing and will collect more in the future. But have you ever wondered what will happen to these samples from this point on?
How is the Perseverance rover storing them while on Mars? How will they find their way to the waiting hands of the scientists here on Earth? These are the questions we will attempt to answer in this article.
The Perseverance Rover
Before we go any further, let us first talk about the Perseverance rover itself.
Both the Perseverance rover and Ingenuity helicopter are part of NASA's Mars 2020 Exploration Program. The two were launched from the Cape Canaveral Space Force Station in Florida on July 20, 2020.
They had to wait until February before they could reach the Red Planet. The Perseverance rover touched down on Mars' Jezero Crater with the Ingenuity helicopter tucked in its belly.
The Perseverance rover served as the support of its helicopter companion during its early days on Mars before it moved on to its actual mission while on Mars. The rover's mission is to collect rock samples from the Red Planet. It is also tasked with looking for signs of life on Mars.
Rock Sample Collection
The Perseverance has collected three rock samples as of writing, and it will collect more in the future. The first rock sample collection, which took place early in September, took two attempts to get right due to the sample from the first attempt being too crumbly to study.
The Perseverance rover's second rock sample collection successfully happened in the same month, Tech Times reported. The first two rock samples were collected from a rock that has been nicknamed Rochette.
The third sample, which was collected this month, was taken from a different rock in the Jezero Crater. According to a tweet posted on the official Twitter account of the Mars rover, the rock is rich in a mineral called olivine.
What Will Happen to the Rock Samples?
So what exactly happens to the rock samples once they're placed in a tube and sealed away? According to NASA, the tube is placed in the Perseverance's belly and then "handed off to the small interior robotic arm and moved to inspection and sealing stations."
The samples will remain in its belly until it is time to deposit them on the surface of the Red Planet that will be designated as the "sample cache depot." This is where the samples will be picked up to be brought to Earth.
According to The Guardian, NASA will be working with the European Space Agency (ESA) to collect the samples and "load them onto a rocket to take them into orbit, from where they will be transferred to a return vehicle."
The samples are expected to arrive on Earth sometime in the 2030s.
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Written by Isabella James