One of the fundamental objectives of Perseverance’s mission is to obtain rock samples that will be brought to Earth in a future mission and researched for possible clues of ancient life. However, excavating suitable rock is not always straightforward.
“The rover is currently exploring a well-preserved delta located on the western side of Jezero crater on Mars. Scientists believe that, if life ever existed on the Red Planet, this area could harbor ancient biomarkers, or “molecular fossils,” of organic molecules created by living organisms billions of years ago, “according to an announcement from NASA.
Perseverance is currently examining rocks while looking for these critical biomarkers. The most feasible rocks will be stored up for a future sample-return mission to send them to Earth in 2033, enabling scientists to refer to the most powerful lab technology to study the molecular structure in extraordinary detail and determine whether the organic molecules have biological roots.
Selecting a rock that is just perfect for sampling can be difficult for the robotic explorer. Periodically, the coring process alone can result in the fragile rock samples wrecking, cracking, or even crumbling.
“The rocks here at the ancient river delta are amazing, but so far none has been perfect for #SamplingMars. Some too fragile, some too jagged, but I’m sure I’ll find the right one soon — I’m not called Perseverance for nothing,” NASA wrote on the Perseverance Mars Rover Twitter page.