In the short time since ’s Perseverance rover landed in ’ Jezero Crater on Feb. 18, 2021, it’s already made history.
At the moment, Mars and the Earth are on opposite sides of the Sun, and the two planets cannot communicate with each other. After working nonstop for the past 216 Martian days, the science teams are taking the first real break since the mission started.
We are two members of the Perseverance team, and with the rover hunkered down for the 20 days of conjunction, it is the perfect time to step back and reflect on the mission thus far.
Perseverance has tested out all of its engineering capabilities, driven 1.6 miles (2.6 kilometers) over rough terrain and taken tens of thousands of photos with its 19 cameras. Of all of these incredible successes, there are three major milestones that we’re particularly excited about: collecting the first rock core samples, flying the Ingenuity helicopter and publishing our first scientific results about the Jezero Crater delta.
One of Perseverance’s primary objectives is to use its sample caching system to extract small rock cores – roughly the size of dry-erase markers – and seal them in special sample tubes. A future mission will then pick them up and bring them on a long, interplanetary journey back to Earth.
For Perserverance’s first drilling attempt in August, our team picked a nice flat rock that was easy to access with the drill. After six days of assessing the bedrock – and finally drilling into it – we were thrilled to see a hole in the ground and get confirmation that the sample tube had sealed successfully. However, the next day the rover sent photos of the inside of the tube, and we saw it was actually empty. Some of Mars’ atmosphere is trapped inside and will be useful to study, but it’s not what the team was hoping for.
Ultimately, our team concluded that the rock itself was much softer than expected and it was completely pulverized during the act of drilling.
Three weeks and 1,800 feet (550 meters) later, we came across some promising-looking rocks protruding up above the red surface. This suggested that the rocks were harder and therefore easier to take a sample of. This time Perseverance successfully extracted and stored two core samples from the grayish, wind-polished rock. After collecting up to a few dozen more, it will drop the samples at a safe and easily… Brinkwire News Summary.