Science

Mars rover Perseverance mines 11th rock sample

NASA’s Perseverance rover has found another rock that could hold clues as to whether there was life on Mars.

Mars mission officials briefly announced the milestone on Monday (August 1) on Twitter, linking the rover’s collection to its future participation in a planned sample return mission.

“Exciting news: not only did I recently take a new rock core (#11), but I plan to collect these samples back to Earth,” the rover’s Perseverance account tweeted. (will open in a new tab) Monday.

On the subject: 12 amazing photos of the first year of the Perseverance rover on Mars

NASA has redesigned the Mars sample return mission to make Perseverance the primary sample-collecting rover, abandoning previous plans to use the European Space Agency’s rover, the agency announced last week. As a backup, NASA will have two new helicopters collect samples themselves.

Also last week, NASA officials told reporters that the rover 11 sample was sedimentary rock that could contain biomarkers or signs of life. While Perseverance can do a preliminary analysis of its samples, it hasn’t been able to bring many instruments to Mars, so scientists are keen to ship the caches back to Earth for more detailed analysis.

Hence the sample return mission, which is a joint effort between NASA and the European Space Agency (ESA) and is due to launch to the Red Planet in 2028. In the meantime, Perseverance will prepare the samples it will collect from Jezero Crater and find a convenient location where a sample return mission can land.

After the sample return mission lands, Perseverance will deliver the samples to a small rocket called the Mars Ascent Vehicle (MAV). The rocket will launch the samples to an orbiter that will bring the rocks back to Earth for analysis by scientists.

Perseverance contains 43 tubes, 38 of which must be filled with samples. The rover team tries to pick up the most promising specimens from the collection area so as not to waste precious cargo space.

The mission landed on Mars in February 2021 and filled its first tube in September 2021. She is currently investigating the river delta, which may contain past traces of life in the area, according to past briefings with Perseverance officials.

Follow Elizabeth Howell on Twitter @howellspace (will open in a new tab). Follow us on Twitter @Spacedotcom (will open in a new tab) and on facebook (will open in a new tab).

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