Perseverance rover grabs 20th rock sample that could reveal Mars’ watery past

Nasa’s Perseverance rover has secured its 20th rock core, overcoming the challenges posed by the crumbly nature of conglomerate rocks atop Jezero Crater’s fan.

The rover’s science team has been diligently working to obtain a sample of this particular rock unit due to its potential to unlock secrets about the Red Planet’s past.

The conglomerate rock is a geological treasure trove, composed of various clasts – fragments of pre-existing rocks – that have been naturally cemented together over time. These clasts are believed to have traveled from distant locations to their current resting place within Jezero Crater.

Perseverance rover acquired this image using its onboard Sample Caching System Camera. (Photo: Nasa)

By analysing these samples, scientists hope to gain insights into the origins of the materials, the distances they’ve traversed, and the environmental conditions that existed when they were first formed and subsequently bonded into conglomerates.

However, the pursuit of such valuable scientific data has not been without its difficulties. The initial sampling attempts faced setbacks; the first sample was too small, and the second attempt failed altogether.

The crumbly nature of the conglomerate made it challenging for the rover to extract a stable core. The fine-grained matrix holding the clasts together would disintegrate during the coring process, causing the rock to fall apart.

Despite these obstacles, the perseverance of the Perseverance rover and its team paid off. On the third attempt, the rover successfully acquired a sample from Otis Peak. The CacheCam image of the sample reveals a variety of colors, each representing different clasts, which hold clues to the history of water and geological processes in the crater.

Perseverance rover location. (Photo: Nasa)

This latest achievement is more than just another rock core; it represents a piece of the puzzle in understanding Mars’ geologic and hydrologic history. The rover’s tweet encapsulates the excitement of the moment: “I’m building a real science treasure chest, including this notable sample containing pebbly grains that were carried in by a fast-moving river. This rock core can give my team a glimpse into areas surrounding Jezero Crater I may never explore.”

With this success, the Perseverance rover is now set to continue its journey towards Snowdrift Peak en route to the margin unit, carrying with it the hopes of unraveling the mysteries of Mars’ ancient environment and the possibility of past life on the planet.

Published By:

Sibu Kumar Tripathi

Published On:

Dec 6, 2023

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