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Raumfahrt - NASA Mars Perseverance Rover 2020 Mission-Update-43

18.12.2022

NASA’s Perseverance Rover to Begin Building Martian Sample Depot

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The 10 sample tubes being dropped on Mars’ surface so they can be studied on Earth in the future carry an amazing diversity of Red Planet geology.

In the coming days, NASA’s Perseverance rover is expected to begin building the first sample depot on another world. This will mark a crucial milestone in the NASA-ESA (European Space Agency) Mars Sample Return campaign, which aims to bring Mars samples to Earth for closer study.

The depot-building process starts when the rover drops one of its titanium sample tubes carrying a chalk-size core of rock from its belly 2.9 feet (88.8 centimeters) onto the ground at an area within Jezero Crater nicknamed “Three Forks.” Over the course of 30 or so days, Perseverance will deposit a total of 10 tubes that carry samples representing the diversity of the rock record in Jezero Crater.

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NASA’s Perseverance Mars rover used its Mastcam-Z camera to capture this rocky hilltop nicknamed “Rockytop” on July 24, 2022, the 507th Martian day, or sol, of the mission.

Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/ASU/MSSS

The rover has been taking a pair of samples from each of its rock targets. Half of every pair will be deposited at Three Forks as a backup set, and the other half will remain inside Perseverance, which will be the primary means to convey the collected samples to the Mars launch vehicle as part of the campaign.

“The samples for this depot – and the duplicates held aboard Perseverance – are an incredible set representative of the area explored during the prime mission,” said Meenakshi Wadhwa, the Mars Sample Return program principal scientist from Arizona State University. “We not only have igneous and sedimentary rocks that record at least two and possibly four or even more distinct styles of aqueous alteration, but also regolith, atmosphere, and a witness tube.”

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This map shows where NASA’s Perseverance Mars rover will be dropping 10 samples that a future mission could pick up. The orange circles represent areas where a Sample Recovery Helicopter could safely operate to acquire the sample tubes.

Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

How to Build a Depot

One of the first requirements to build a sample depot on Mars is to find a level, rock-free stretch of terrain in Jezero Crater where there’s room for each tube to be deposited.

“Up to now, Mars missions required just one good landing zone; we need 11,” said Richard Cook, Mars Sample Return program manager at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Southern California. “The first one is for the Sample Retrieval Lander, but then we need 10 more in the vicinity for our Sample Recovery Helicopters to perform takeoffs and landings, and driving too.”

This short animation features key moments of NASA and ESA’s Mars Sample Return campaign, from landing on Mars and securing the sample tubes to launching them off the surface and ferrying them back to Earth.

Credit: NASA/ESA/JPL-Caltech/GSFC/MSFC

After settling on a suitable site, the campaign’s next task was to figure out exactly where and how to deploy the tubes within that location. “You can’t simply drop them in a big pile because the recovery helicopters are designed to interact with only one tube at a time,” said Cook. The helicopters are intended to serve as a backup, just like the depot. To ensure a helicopter could retrieve samples without disturbing the rest of the depot or encountering any obstructions from the occasional rock or ripple, each tube-drop location will have an “area of operation” at least 18 feet (5.5 meters) in diameter. To that end, the tubes will be deposited on the surface in an intricate zigzag pattern, with each sample 16 to 49 feet (5 to 15 meters) apart from one another.

The depot’s success will depend on accurate placement of the tubes – a process that will take over a month. Before and after Perseverance drops each tube, mission controllers will review a multitude of images from the rover. This assessment will also give the Mars Sample Return team the precise data necessary to locate the tubes in the event of the samples becoming covered by dust or sand before they are collected.

Perseverance’s Extended Mission

Perseverance’s prime mission will conclude on Jan. 6, 2023 – one Mars year (about 687 Earth days) after its Feb. 18, 2021, landing.

“We will still be working the sample depot deployment when our extended mission begins on Jan. 7, so nothing changes from that perspective,” said Art Thompson, Perseverance’s project manager at JPL. “However, once the table is set at Three Forks, we’ll head to the top of the delta. The science team wants to take a good look around up there.”

Called the Delta Top Campaign, this new science phase will begin when Perseverance finishes its ascent of the delta’s steep embankment and arrives at the expanse that forms the upper surface of the Jezero delta, probably sometime in February. During this approximately eight-month campaign, the science team will be on the lookout for boulders and other materials that were carried from elsewhere on Mars and deposited by the ancient river that formed this delta.

“The Delta Top Campaign is our opportunity to get a glimpse at the geological process beyond the walls of Jezero Crater,” said JPL’s Katie Stack Morgan, deputy project scientist for Perseverance. “Billions of years ago a raging river carried debris and boulders from miles beyond the walls of Jezero. We are going to explore these ancient river deposits and obtain samples from their long-traveled boulders and rocks.”

More About the Mission

A key objective for Perseverance’s mission on Mars is astrobiology, including caching samples that may contain signs of ancient microbial life. The rover will characterize the planet’s geology and past climate, pave the way for human exploration of the Red Planet, and be the first mission to collect and cache Martian rock and regolith.

Subsequent NASA missions, in cooperation with ESA, would send spacecraft to Mars to collect these sealed samples from the surface and return them to Earth for in-depth analysis.

The Mars 2020 Perseverance mission is part of NASA’s Moon to Mars exploration approach, which includes Artemis missions to the Moon that will help prepare for human exploration of the Red Planet.

JPL, which is managed for NASA by Caltech, built and manages operations of the Perseverance rover.

Quelle: NASA

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Update: 23.12.2022

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NASA’s Perseverance Rover Deposits First Sample on Mars Surface

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NASA’s Perseverance rover deposited the first of several samples onto the Martian surface on Dec. 21, 2022, the 653rd Martian day, or sol, of the mission.

Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS

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Once the Perseverance team confirmed the first sample tube was on the surface, they positioned the WATSON camera located at the end of the rover’s robotic arm to peer beneath the rover, checking to be sure that the tube hadn’t rolled into the path of ... Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS

Filled with rock, the sample tube will be one of 10 forming a depot of tubes that could be considered for a journey to Earth by the Mars Sample Return campaign.

A titanium tube containing a rock sample is resting on the Red Planet’s surface after being placed there on Dec. 21 by NASA’s Perseverance Mars rover. Over the next two months, the rover will deposit a total of 10 tubes at the location, called “Three Forks,” building humanity’s first sample depot on another planet. The depot marks a historic early step in the Mars Sample Return campaign.

Perseverance has been taking duplicate samples from rock targets the mission selects. The rover currently has the other 17 samples(including one atmospheric sample) taken so far in its belly. Based on the architecture of the Mars Sample Return campaign, the rover would deliver samples to a future robotic lander. The lander would, in turn, use a robotic arm to place the samples in a containment capsule aboard a small rocket that would blast off to Mars orbit, where another spacecraft would capture the sample container and return it safely to Earth.

Engineers use OPTIMISM, a full-size replica of NASA’s Perseverance rover, to test how it will deposit its first sample tube on the Martian surface. The test was conducted in the Mars Yard at JPL.

Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

The depot will serve as a backup if Perseverance can’t deliver its samples. In that case, a pair of Sample Recovery Helicopters would be called upon to finish the job.

The first sample to drop was a chalk-size core of igneous rockinformally named “Malay,” which was collected on Jan. 31, 2022, in a region of Mars’ Jezero Crater called “South Séítah.” Perseverance’s complex Sampling and Caching System took almost an hour to retrieve the metal tube from inside the rover’s belly, view it one last time with its internal CacheCam, and drop the sample roughly 3 feet (89 centimeters) onto a carefully selected patch of Martian surface.

Engineers react with surprise while testing how NASA’s Perseverance rover will deposit its sample tubes on the Martian surface. Less than 5% of the time, a flat end on the sample tube caused it to land straight up after dropping.

Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

But the job wasn’t done for engineers at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Southern California, which built Perseverance and leads the mission. Once they confirmed the tube had dropped, the team positioned the WATSON camera located at the end of Perseverance’s 7-foot-long (2-meter-long) robotic arm to peer beneath the rover, checking to be sure that the tube hadn’t rolled into the path of the rover’s wheels.

They also wanted to ensure the tube hadn’t landed in such a way that it was standing on its end (each tube has a flat end piece called a “glove” to make it easier to be picked up by future missions). That occurred less than 5% of the time during testing with Perseverance’s Earthly twin in JPL’s Mars Yard. In case it does happen on Mars, the mission has written a series of commands for Perseverance to carefully knock the tube over with part of the turret at the end of its robotic arm.

This short animation features key moments of NASA and ESA’s Mars Sample Return campaign, from landing on Mars and securing the sample tubes to launching them off the surface and ferrying them back to Earth.

Credit: NASA/ESA/JPL-Caltech/GSFC/MSFC

In coming weeks, they’ll have other opportunities to see whether Perseverance needs to use the technique as the rover deposits more samples at the Three Forks cache.

“Seeing our first sample on the ground is a great capstone to our prime mission period, which ends on Jan. 6,” said Rick Welch, Perseverance’s deputy project manager at JPL. “It’s a nice alignment that, just as we’re starting our cache, we’re also closing this first chapter of the mission.”

More About the Mission

A key objective for Perseverance’s mission on Mars is astrobiology, including the search for signs of ancient microbial life. The rover will characterize the planet’s geology and past climate, pave the way for human exploration of the Red Planet, and be the first mission to collect and cache Martian rock and regolith (broken rock and dust).

Subsequent NASA missions, in cooperation with ESA (European Space Agency), would send spacecraft to Mars to collect these sealed samples from the surface and return them to Earth for in-depth analysis.

The Mars 2020 Perseverance mission is part of NASA’s Moon to Mars exploration approach, which includes Artemis missions to the Moon that will help prepare for human exploration of the Red Planet.

JPL, which is managed for NASA by Caltech in Pasadena, California, built and manages operations of the Perseverance rover.

Quelle: NASA

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