NASA’s Mars rover has finished depositing the ten tubes containing samples of Martian rocks it collected last year. This repository is a fallback for the program Mars Sample Return (MSR) return of Martian samples to Earth, in the event of a rover failure.
“Percy” has finished laying tubes on the ground filled with Martian rock. The tubes were deposited on the site called “Three ForksForks ». The Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL), pilot of the rover, received confirmation of the last deposit on January 29.
The backup plan
These tubes constitute an emergency depot within the framework of the MSR program. The first solution is for the rover to bring samples to the future itself Mars Ascent Vehicle (MAV), the small rocketrocket who will send the samples orbitorbit martian. PerseverancePerseverance will deposit the tubes in front of the MAV’s landing platform which will transmit them to the rocket using a robotic arm developed by theESAESAthe European Space Agency.
However, this scenario relies on the performance of the Robber MartinRobber Martin which has been running for almost two years and which landed in February 2021. It will have to continue to function well until the arrival of the MAV, which will not happen before the end of the decade, it is too long to hope that all goes well. So there is a plan B. This is based on the magnificent performance and longevity of the dronedrone martin IngenuityIngenuity (already 41 flights!). The idea is to use more powerful drones that will pick up the tubes dropped by Perseverance in Three Forks and bring them to MAV. For this, Perseverance placed the samples close to each other. This rover-independent solution allows samples to be returned to Earth in 2033 at the earliest.
Click & Collect !
Each sample has been carefully selected and its collection advised by the scientific team. The samples are diversified, there is even a tube containing only Martian air which serves as a control tube attesting that the other tubes have not been contaminated by materials transported from Earth with the rover. The rover keeps a duplicate of each sample.
Some samples will provide cross-sectional views of geological processes that took place after the crater was formed about 4 billion years ago. The zigzag deposit allows JPL to make an accurate mapping of the site. Thus, the tubes can be found even if, during the years of waiting, they are covered with dust.
On the way to a next fundraiser!
After having explored rocky areas for a long time, Perseverance is now heading towards the old deltadelta of the river that fed a lake and filled the Jezero crater. The rover will pass by a route already taken and in particular by a place called “Rocky Top”. At this location, scientists will start a new campaign.
The rover will continue to ascend the delta. From Rocky Top, scientists estimate that the rocks are no longer deposited on the ground in a way lacustrinelacustrine, but created or deposited by the river. In other words, we pass the limit of the lake. The grains of the rocks are expected to be larger. The rocks would then come from outside the crater.
Perseverance has around 20 possible sample collections left. The scenario envisaged is that the rover make a new collection in these heights and possibly go down to Three Forks to redo another deposit. The schedule is still very busy! Besides, the NasaNasa created an office dedicated to receptionreception and the management of samples brought back to Earth, at the Johnson Space Center (Houston, Texas).
NASA’s Perseverance rover has begun building a backup repository of Mars sample tubes. This deposit, the first of its kind on an extraterrestrial surface, should have up to 10 tubes which will be brought in over the next two months. As part of the Mars sample return mission, Perseverance is expected to deliver them directly to the small rocket that will take them to Mars orbit. If, for one reason or another, he couldn’t reach the rocket, NASA and ESA have planned a rather audacious backup solution. Of them helicoptershelicopters are sent to retrieve the tubes from the relief depot.
Article of Remy DecourtRemy Decourtpublished on December 26, 2022
Over the next two months, the Perseverance rover will deposit a total of ten sample tubes in the same location on Martian soil. Baptized ” Three Forks This filing marks a historic first step in the Mars sample return campaign. Surprisingly, these tubes in titaniumtitanium may never be brought back to Earth!
In effect, Three Forks is a back-up site, i.e. according to the scenario planned by NASA and ESA, as part of the future Mars sample return mission, Perseverance must deliver several tubes of samples to the MY V (Mars Ascent Vehicle), the rocket that will be used to send these tubes into Mars orbit where a satellite will be waiting for them to bring them back to Earth. This MAV will be brought to Mars aboard a landing platform on which an arm will be installed roboticsrobotics ; it is the latter that will be used to recover the sample tubes brought by Perseverance and then to place them in a containment capsule on board the MAV.
A scenario that could be incredible
If this maneuver should fail, for example due to the malfunction of the robotic arm or the impossibility for Perseverance to reach the landing platform, NASA and ESA have planned a rather daring alternative. Two helicopters will be used to retrieve some or all of the tubes from the deposit Three Forks. If these helicopters should also miss their mission, a third and final solution is possible with the use of the robotic arm which can perform a rescue collection. Whatever the solution, the Martian samples will not be brought back to Earth until 2033.
The Martian samples recovered by Perseverance were obviously not chosen at random. The rover picked up 17, some of them duplicates, from targets selected by the mission’s science team. He also took an atmospheric sample. In 2008, the ND-MSR SAG (Next Decade Mars Sample ReturnMars Sample Return Science Analysis Group) had published a report formulating the main objectives towards which the first missions to collect Martian samples intended for analysis on Earth should tend.
Concretely, the selection of these samples is made taking into account as much as possible the following objectives:
- Determination of the chemical, mineralogical and isotopic composition in carbon, nitrogen and sulfur micro-deposits, with study of their interactions.
- Identify past and present processes by these elements in order to analyze their ability to support the development of life and a habitable environment.
- Assess the possibility of process prebioticsprebiotics past or present on Mars by characterizing the signatures of these phenomena on the basis of their structure and their morphologymorphologybiominerals, isotopic and molecular compositions of materialsmaterials organic materials encountered, or otherwise evident in the local geological context.
- Interpret and determine the interactions between water and Martian rocks by studying their resulting products.
- Obtain precise dating of major geological events in the crustcrust Martian, including the sedimentationsedimentationthe diagenesisdiagenesisthe volcanismvolcanismthe formation of regolithregolithhydrothermal change, cratering and meteorologymeteorology.
- Understand the paleoenvironments and the history of surface waters by characterizing the clastic (i.e. elements resulting from the destruction of rocks by erosion) and chemical components, the sedimentation processes and the subsequent deformation of these sedimentary layers.
- Model the process ofaccretionaccretionof differentiationdifferentiationand evolution of the Martian crust, coatcoat and core.
- Determine how Martian regolith formed and then changed, and understand why its appearance differs from place to place.
- Characterize the risks to which future human explorers will be exposed in terms of toxicitytoxicity (biological or chemical) orabrasionabrasion by Martian dust. Evaluate the potential use of the materials encountered for the constructionconstruction of a future Martian base.
- Study the state ofoxidationoxidation based on the depth, permeability, and other factors of subsurface or shallow but nonetheless accessible terrain, to determine the preservation potential for chemical signatures of hypothetical present-day life or prebiotic chemistry.
- Determine the initial composition of theatmosphereatmosphere Mars, as well as the qualitative and quantitative rates of increase and reduction of this massemasse atmosphere during geological epochs, as well as the rates of exchange with condensed matter at the surface.
- About the polar capspolar capsdetermine their age, geochemistry, stage of formation, and detail the history of their past and present evolution by detailed analysis of the composition of water, CO2 and the constituents of the dust they contain, as well as the isotopic rates of the various upper stratigraphic layers up to the surface.
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