Raumfahrt - NASA Mars Perseverance Rover 2020 Mission-Update-44


Nasa's Mars rover Perseverance completes rock depot


The 10th sample tube was dropped to the ground, potentially to be picked up by a later mission

Nasa's Perseverance rover has finished building a rock depot on Mars.

It's laid down a series of tubes on the ground containing a variety of rock and environmental specimens.

The depot will serve as a reserve cache to be brought back to Earth in the event Perseverance is unable to complete the next stage of its mission.

Scientists want rock samples brought home to study in the lab. It will be the best way to determine whether life has ever existed on the Red Planet.

Photos downlinked from the robot on Monday showed the last of the 10 titanium cylinders intended for the depot, lying in the dust between the vehicle's wheels.

The tube's exact position has been carefully documented.

Perseverance was sent to Mars to investigate a 45km-wide bowl called Jezero Crater.

It's a location thought to have held a lake billions of years ago.

It also has on its western fringe the remnants of a delta.

This is a structure created from the silt and sand dumped by a river as it slows on entry into a wider body of water.

It's the kind of feature that might just have trapped evidence of past microbial organisms.

Perseverance has drilled a mix of volcanic and sedimentary rocks that should tell the story of the crater and the lake it once held. Examples of those rocks are now in the depot on a flat piece of terrain dubbed "Three Forks".


Perseverance took a selfie after depositing the ninth tube last week

To be clear, the collection is not the primary cache Nasa wishes to return to Earth; it's more of a "Plan B".

Perseverance retains copies of the Three Forks samples in the caching system inside its belly.

The hope is the rover can directly deliver these rocks - and others yet to be drilled - to the mission that comes to take them home.

But Nasa can't risk the scenario where the rover breaks down with all the rocks stuck inside it.

The depot is therefore an insurance. It guarantees something is available to pick up when the retrieval mission arrives at the end of the decade.

Should the nightmare happen and Perseverance dies, the fetch mission will be directed straight to Three Forks.


The rover is about to drive up on to the top of the delta, accompanied by its scout drone. This mini-helicopter, named Ingenuity, has already begun the climb.

Perseverance is going to investigate what appears to be evidence of flood activity, judging from the large size of some of the boulders scattered across the top of the delta.

The robot will then move to the edge of the crater where satellite imagery indicates there are carbonate-type sedimentary rocks. These again will be a good place to look for traces of ancient biology.

Perseverance still has more than 20 sample tubes waiting to be filled.

Map of Jezero Crater
Quelle: BBC

NASA’s Perseverance Rover Completes Mars Sample Depot

Ten sample tubes, capturing an amazing variety of Martian geology, have been deposited on Mars’ surface so they could be studied on Earth in the future.


The Perseverance rover’s WATSON camera took this image of the 10th and last tube to be deployed during the creation of the first sample depot on another world, on Jan. 28, 2023, the 690th Martian day, or sol, of the mission.

Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS

Less than six weeks after it began, construction of the first sample depot on another world is complete. Confirmation that NASA’s Perseverance Mars rover successfully dropped the 10th and final tube planned for the depot was received around 5 p.m. PST (8 p.m. EST) Sunday, Jan. 29, by mission controllers at the agency’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Southern California. This major milestone involved precision planning and navigation to ensure the tubes could be safely recovered in the future by the NASA-ESA (European Space Agency) Mars Sample Return campaign, which aims to bring Mars samples to Earth for closer study.

Throughout its science campaigns, the rover has been taking a pair of samples from rocks the mission team deems scientifically significant. One sample from each pair taken so far now sits in the carefully arranged depot in the “Three Forks” region of Jezero Crater. The depot samples will serve as a backup set while the other half remain inside Perseverance, which would be the primary means to convey samples to a Sample Retrieval Lander as part of the campaign.

Mission scientists believe the igneous and sedimentary rock cores provide an excellent cross section of the geologic processes that took place in Jezero shortly after the crater’s formation almost 4 billion years ago. The rover also deposited an atmospheric sample and what’s called a witness” tube, which is used to determine if samples being collected might be contaminated with materials that traveled with the rover from Earth.

The titanium tubes were deposited on the surface in an intricate zigzag pattern, with each sample about 15 to 50 feet (5 to 15 meters) apart from one another to ensure they could be safely recovered. Adding time to the depot-creation process, the team needed to precisely map the location of each 7-inch-long (18.6-centimeter-long) tube and glove (adapter) combination so that the samples could be found even if covered with dust. The depot is on flat ground near the base of the raised, fan-shaped ancient river delta that formed long ago when a river flowed into a lake there.


This map shows where NASA’s Perseverance Mars rover dropped 10 samples so that a future mission could pick them up. After more than five weeks of work, the sample depot was completed Jan. 28, 2023, the 690th day, or sol, of the mission.

Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

“With the Three Forks depot in our rearview mirror, Perseverance is now headed up the delta,” said Rick Welch, Perseverance’s deputy project manager at JPL. “We’ll make our ascent via the ‘Hawksbill Gap’ route we previously explored. Once we pass the geologic unit the science team calls ‘Rocky Top,’ we will be in new territory and begin exploring the Delta Top.”

Next Science Campaign

Passing the Rocky Top outcrop represents the end of the rover’s Delta Front Campaign and the beginning of the rover’s Delta Top Campaign because of the geologic transition that takes place at that level.

“We found that from the base of the delta up to the level where Rocky Top is located, the rocks appear to have been deposited in a lake environment,” said Ken Farley, Perseverance project scientist at Caltech. “And those just above Rocky Top appear to have been created in or at the end of a Martian river flowing into the lake. As we ascend the delta into a river setting, we expect to move into rocks that are composed of larger grains – from sand to large boulders. Those materials likely originated in rocks outside of Jezero, eroded and then washed into the crater.”

One of the first stops the rover will make during the new science campaign is at a location the science team calls the “Curvilinear Unit.” Essentially a Martian sandbar, the unit is made of sediment that eons ago was deposited in a bend in one of Jezero’s inflowing river channels. The science team believes the Curvilinear Unit will be an excellent location to hunt for intriguing outcrops of sandstone and perhaps mudstone, and to get a glimpse at the geological processes beyond the walls of Jezero Crater.

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


Update: 2.02.2023


Mars helicopter Ingenuity soars over Perseverance rover tracks on 41st flight

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