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Renaissance in pink | The Planetary Society

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Within the case of selecting the touchdown web site for Perseverance, extra
strain got here from the truth that NASA needs to carry samples again to
Earth from that web site — and never simply any samples however a compelling set of
samples that would allow new discoveries about not solely the potential
for all times on Mars however for every kind of different basic Mars science as
effectively.

The 4 finalist websites had been all fascinating and
scientifically vital locations to review up shut on Mars — we have to
go to all of them finally! Finally, nonetheless, Jezero was chosen
as a result of the intensive orbital imaging of its spectacular river delta’s
sedimentary rocks confirmed it to be promising for preserving potential
biosignatures. As well as, the presence of different volcanic and altered
minerals may present extra data on the historical past of the
area.

The Jezero web site would allow the rover crew to pose
particular testable hypotheses. For instance, Jezero hosted a long-lived
crater lake early in Mars historical past; volcanic rocks from the crater flooring
may help set up the age of the delta and different options.

In
my opinion, what set Jezero other than the opposite finalist websites is the
means to pose particular hypotheses and to craft a comparatively easy
story across the exploration and sampling of an historic river, a delta,
lake sediments and close by volcanic supplies.

Trying forward

After all, Perseverance landed dramatically and efficiently on Feb. 18, 2021. Regardless of many various rover instrument and programs groups having to work collectively largely in isolation from one another throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, the primary 12 months of the mission has been a convincing success, with eight samples of Jezero Crater flooring rocks safely saved in pattern tubes contained in the physique of the rover. However how will these samples be returned to Earth?

Whereas it’s an evolving plan involving collaboration between at the very least NASA and ESA, one chance is that Perseverance would drop a cache of samples onto the bottom in a particular location after which a small “fetch rover” despatched to land close by in Jezero would accumulate them and convey them again to its lander, the place they’d be loaded onto a rocket on that lander and blasted into Mars orbit. As soon as there, a specifically designed orbiter would seize the pattern container and rocket out of Mars orbit to carry the pattern capsule again for a parachute-assisted touchdown within the Utah desert. What may probably go improper?

Really, many elements of that plan have been demonstrated to varied levels in earlier missions, just like the small Spirit/Alternative-class fetch rover, the sample-caching spacecraft (OSIRIS-REx, Genesis and Stardust) and the Earth-return pattern canister touchdown (Genesis, Stardust and Hayabusa).

Some elements are new, although. The Mars Ascent Car (MAV) — the rocket that launches the pattern container into Mars orbit — is a very new and untested idea in Mars exploration. And the seize of that pattern container by an orbiter round Mars can be one other first-time exercise in deep area exploration. Certainly, there are loads of issues to work out, and because the closing plan is authorised over the approaching months to years, there will definitely be modifications to the essential define envisioned in the present day.

Within the meantime, the Perseverance crew will proceed its a part of the job in earnest: exploring volcanic and sedimentary supplies in Jezero Crater and gathering a set of samples to someway, sometime carry again to Earth.



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