On March 30, NASA’s Perseverance rover collected the first Mars sample of a new science campaign. On this one, the rover is investigating the top of the delta in Jezero Crater. As part of the NASA-ESA (European Space Agency) Mars Sample Return effort, Perseverance recently deposited ten tubes on the Martian surface as a backup cache in addition to the 19 samples and three witness tubes already collected.
To find evidence of early microbial life and to learn more about the water cycle that sculpted Mars’ surface and innards, scientists want to analyze Martian samples with high-tech lab equipment on Earth. With each campaign, the team explores and studies a new area.
The recently collected sample is the 16th cored rock sample of the mission. It was cored from a rock called ‘Berea.’
According to scientists, Berea must have formed from rock deposits carried downstream by an ancient river to this location. The team finds the rock particularly promising because it suggests that the material may have originated from a region that is far larger than Jezero Crater.
Katie Stack Morgan, deputy project scientist for Perseverance at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Southern California, said, “The second reason is that the rock is rich in carbonate. Carbonate rocks on Earth can be good at preserving fossilized lifeforms. If biosignatures were present in this part of Jezero Crater, it could be a rock like this one that could very well hold their secrets.”
Perseverance’s project scientist, Ken Farley of Caltech in Pasadena, said, “The Berea core highlights the beauty of rover missions. Perseverance’s mobility has allowed us to collect igneous samples from the relatively flat crater floor during the first campaign and then travel to the base of the crater’s delta, where we found fine-grained sedimentary rocks deposited in a dried lakebed. Now we are sampling from a geologic location where we find coarse-grained sedimentary rocks deposited in a river.”
“With this diversity of environments to observe and collect from, we are confident that these samples will allow us to understand better what occurred here at Jezero Crater billions of years ago.”