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The Perseverance rover has a new mission: reconnaissance on Mars.
In addition to collecting the first samples from an ancient river delta on the red planet, the robot explorer explored flat areas around Jezero Crater that could serve as a landing site for a Mars sample recovery campaign.
This ambitious initiative, a joint venture between NASA and the European Space Agency, will rely on several missions to collect samples collected by Perseverance and return them to Earth over the next decade. These samples will be the first Martian samples to be returned to Earth.
“I am a geologist, meteorologist, photographer, etc. Now I can add “location scout” to the list. I’ve been looking at places where the Mars Sample Return spacecraft could get going, including the first launch pad on another planet,” the tweet reads. Rover’s Twitter account.
As Perseverance explores the site of an ancient lake that existed billions of years ago, it collects rocks and soil. This material is of interest because it may contain evidence for the existence of microscopic organisms in the past, which could show whether life ever existed on Mars.
Scientists will have the opportunity to use some of the most sophisticated instruments in the world to study these precious specimens.
The campaign to bring Martian samples back to Earth will begin in the mid-2020s with a rocket carrying a sample-retrieval lander and rover to Mars.
Once the lander arrives on Mars, it will land near Jezero Crater and launch a rover to collect samples from areas where Perseverance has hidden them on the Martian surface.
There is also the possibility that Perseverance itself may store some of the samples on board and deliver them to the lander.
However, the rover is not the only spacecraft that rides on a lander. It will also deliver the Mars Ascent Vehicle, the first rocket ever to be launched from the surface of Mars, with the samples safely hidden inside.
In the mid-2020s, a separate mission called the Earth Return Orbiter will be launched from Earth to rendezvous with the Mars Ascent Vehicle.
On board the Earth Return Orbiter is a capture/containment and return system that will collect a container of samples from the ship for ascent to Mars while both ships are in orbit around Mars.
The Earth Return orbiter will then return to our world. Once the spacecraft gets close to Earth, it will release an Earth lander containing a cache of samples, and that spacecraft will land on Earth in the early-to-mid 2030s.
Robotic components for the campaign are currently being tested at NASA and ESA facilities.
To land on and launch from Mars, a sample return mission requires a flat surface with a radius of 200 feet (60 meters) without sand dunes, sloping terrain, or rocks larger than 7.5 inches (19 centimeters) in diameter. region. The obstruction-free, flat terrain will also make it easier for the rover to search for samples.
“The Perseverance team went above and beyond for us because Mars Sample Return has unique needs when it comes to where we operate,” said Richard Cook, Mars Sample Return Program Manager at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif. your statement. .
“In principle, a dull landing site is good. The flatter and more boring the view, the more we like it, because while there are many things to do when we arrive to pick up samples, sightseeing is not one of them.”
The sample return team used the rover’s cameras to survey a flat area they call a “landing strip.” The area, long and flat, like an airport runway, was previously seen in images taken by orbiters orbiting the planet. Perseverance managed to capture the best view from the ground.
“We’ve been looking at these places since before Perseverance landed, but the orbital images can’t tell you much,” Al Chen, system engineering and integration manager for Mars Sample Return at JPL, said in a statement.
“Now we have some personal shots of the runway that show we were right about the money. The landing strip will likely be on our shortlist of potential landing and storage sites for (sample return from Mars).”
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