NASA’s Perseverance robot landed on the surface of Mars on February 18 to collect samples of soil and other elements on the planet. Almost a month later, the robot already has news to tell: the analysis of the rocks found so far indicates that they may have been altered by wind and water.
With 25 cameras on board, most of which are dedicated to ensuring safe navigation and some to analyze the Martian surface, Perseverance released the first images of the Red Planet a few days after it landed there, where it was possible to see its rocky surface and its hills.
🔴 LIVE: Take a tour of Mars via our @NASAPersevere rover's Mastcam-Z, guided by the team behind it all!#CountdownToMars reminder: Please keep your arms & legs inside the vehicle & remain seated as we cruise Jezero Crater: https://t.co/ZohBC2P8Pp https://t.co/ZohBC2P8Pp
— NASA (@NASA) February 25, 2021
On March 4, the robot made its first trip across the planet, covering more than 6 meters of the entire landscape, and scientists have already determined, from the images that are being collected, that several of them are chemically similar to the volcanic rocks of the Earth, and that the wind, but also the water, seem to have eroded some of them, so announced at a conference held this Tuesday.
The robot used a laser instrument that hits rocks and allows vaporizing small portions to study its chemical composition. From this analysis, it was also possible to determine that one of the found rocks, which scientists called Yeegho, shows signs of having water trapped in its minerals.
The main scientific experiments of the robot are not yet happening: scientists have tested their tools, and it is expected that a set of tools will be implanted in Perseverance – including a drill, a camera that allows close-up images and chemical sensors – to find signs of past life in the rocks of the planet. Scientists also continue to work on planning the robot’s trip – which will take place after June – from its landing site, in the Jezero Crater, to the 40-meter cliffs of the old river delta, which is the target of the mission, where scientists believe ancient microbial life could be found.
Before that, it is expected that the flight tests to his helicopter, the Ingenuity, can be carried out in the next few weeks in an area close to the place where the rover is “installed”, while Perseverance records a video of the moment. The next step in these tests will be drilling and extracting a sample of fractured rock that forms a large part of the Jezero Crater soil, which scientists believe may help to determine the age of the crater’s bottom.
The “Mars Perseverance Rover” left in July 2020 and, during its stay on Mars, it will collect about 30 tubes with samples of Martian rocks and soil, and then place them on its surface so that a future mission can recover them and bring them back to Earth, but not before 2031. This mission, according to NASA, “paves the way for human exploration of the Red Planet”.