Nasa's Perseverance rover locks new target on Mars after failed sample attempt
After failing to collect a rock sample that proved too crumbly, Nasa’s Perseverance rover has set its eyes on another rock nicknamed ‘Rochette’. The US space agency on Thursday said a tool mounted on the robotic arm of Perseverance will abrade the surface of the rock. The scientists will look inside Rochette to determine whether they would move ahead to capture the sample with the rover’s coring bit.
The Perseverance rover has been exploring a four square kilometre patch of the Jezero crater floor since its landing in search of a scientifically interesting target to collect Martian rocks. The rover is carrying over three dozen titanium tubes to collect the sample.
If the team decides to acquire a core from this rock, the sampling process would be initiated next week, according to Nasa. This time, the rover will pause the sampling sequence to let the team review the image captured by the Mastcam-Z camera system to ensure the rock core is present.
The rover’s first attempt to capture the sample failed as the rock broke into powder and fragments too small to be retained in the sample tube. Nasa, however, said the first sample tube still contains samples of Martian atmosphere which the mission had planned to acquire at a later time.
“By returning samples to Earth, we hope to answer a number of scientific questions, including the composition of Mars’ atmosphere. That’s why we’re interested in an atmospheric sample along with rock samples,” said Ken Farley, Perseverance’s project scientist at Caltech in Pasadena, California.
The science team has identified the Jezero Crater as an ancient lakebed that gradually dried up as the climate on the Red Planet changed. Scientists have planned to collect rocks from Jezero Crater since evidence of life on Earth is often preserved in the mud and sand deposited at the bottom of the lake. The ongoing mission is the first leg of a relay race to return samples from Mars.