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NASA details the next steps after an error in the Mars rover’s attempt to collect rocks

Panoramic view of the rocky and dusty Martian terrain.

In early August, when the Perseverance rover stated that it had drilled the first Martian rock sample, NASA scientists were very excited. But it turns out that The sample tube is empty, The Perseverance team began a remote investigation to solve the mystery of the disappearing rock.

Kenneth Farley, a project scientist at the California Institute of Technology and a member of the Perseverance team, outlines the next step for the task Blog post Released later last week. The problematic rock target, nicknamed Roubion, Turned into dust When the rover drilled into it. The target is a flat rock, which is part of the Crater Floor-Fractured Rough section of Jezero Crater, and NASA scientists believe it can preserve some of the oldest information about the dry lake bed. If it were not evidence of fossil life, the rock samples would at least contain information about the ancient climate and geological history of the red planet.

Since flat polygonal target rocks are not suitable for sampling, Farley said the team has turned to “as different rocks as possible…allowing us to test the idea that Rubien is just a poorly performing rock.” The next goal It’s Citadelle, an outcrop of a quarter mile of rocky ridgeline in the crater. The boulder of Citadelle is a very different core project from the finely layered sediments of Crater Floor-Fractured Rough.

Route map of the Perseverance rover.

An annotated image showing Perseverance’s journey on Mars so far involves its future path. The castle is marked by a blue dot.
picture: NASA/JPL-California Institute of Technology/University of Arizona

Farley said that the team may pick a sampling target on the Citadelle and start planning to take cores this week, with the goal of sampling the outcrops around the end of August. If this attempt is successful, Citadelle’s rock will be the first of dozens of samples taken from the surface of Mars. NASA plans to eventually collect these samples by another mission and bring them to Earth in the early 2030s.All in all, this task will be One of the most ambitious projects in the recent history of space exploration, and certainly one of the most ambitious projects in the history of Mars exploration.If the samples are successfully brought back to Earth, they will be the furthest objects in space By humans.

After Citadelle, there is Some Perseverance items are already on the list.The rover plans to check the details of Séítah, a crater covered by sand dunes that will eventually need to reach The delta fan into the crater, and researchers believe that the site is the most promising in terms of potential astrobiology. (This kind of hope is based on primitive micro orLiving organisms tend to appear on the earth-dried up The river delta is an analog of Mars. )

But before Perseverance reaches the Delta, Farley said that the rover may return to the broken rough and try to take the core again. Perseverance may just be unlucky because of a particularly stubborn stone, He said, and added that the rocks from the same areack It may be more structurally reasonable to get up from the ground In order to obtain a better sampling target.

The entire mission of Perseverance is expected to run for two years, so I hope that the first sampling attempt is just a flash in the pan in other areas. Life on Mars.

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