October 4, 2023


It's Your Education

Sampling commences on Mars as Museum scientist decides which rocks make it again to Earth

Museum scientist and member of the NASA’s Mars 2020 Science Workforce, Dr Keyron Hickman-Lewis is 1 of 15 intercontinental Returned Sample Science Taking part Researchers (RSS-PSs) on the mission who will guide the science team in its historic effort and hard work to figure out which rocks the rover will gather to be returned residence for potential research.

The staff are looking for rocks that offer a various illustration of materials located on Mars. They will be wanting for appealing interactions concerning the rocks by themselves, as perfectly as potentially accumulating several parts of a single rock in order to receive the most scientifically compelling samples probable.

The two main aims of the NASA Mars 2020 mission are to reconstruct the setting of Jezero crater 3.5 billion several years back and to look for symptoms of ancient life. At extra than 3.5 billion a long time aged, these rocks are some of the oldest in the Solar Program. Martian rocks with major sedimentary and igneous functions will be prioritised for return to Earth, though all those that keep signals of pervasive physical and chemical alteration that happened extended right after the time of formation will be excluded from the sampling approach.

It is hoped that by learning these rock samples in laboratories right here on Earth in the a long time to arrive, researchers will be capable to reply the issue of irrespective of whether there was at any time life on Mars, and could eventually use Mars as a tool to greater understand the early Earth.

Fossils of Martian everyday living

Running initially in the “Green Zone” at Jezero crater, a location of the planet’s area 1st examined from orbit, the rover has been taking visuals of its environment given that its descent on to Mars earlier this 12 months. The group has utilised orbital photos as a information for further exploration. Keyron describes, “Images obtained from orbit are immensely beneficial and give a excellent overview into what lies ahead. They are like Google Earth photographs of Mars – amazingly valuable in offering the more substantial photo, but we’ll only know exactly which samples we want to take as soon as we get nearer to the surface.”

Considering the fact that landing again in February, Perseverance has successfully utilised its payload of scientific resources, making use of lasers to receive chemical analysis of rocks, and cameras to seize far more detailed photographs. Keyron and the other RSS-PSs will use these findings to information and advise the wider science team on which samples greatest match the goals of the mission. They will then act as custodians for documenting the pathway to sampling these rocks until finally they are securely locked absent in the rover, diligently recording the choices designed till sampling, and recording comprehensive observations of the process – belongings that will be identified as on by experts for generations to come.

Keyron says, “As Perseverance commences its sampling campaign, it is important to don’t forget that that these materials will be termed on to remedy the thoughts of a wonderful selection of experts upon return to Earth around a amount of decades. It is critical that we diligently select our sampling targets to be elements from which we can receive the maximum geological and geochemical information”

At the conclude of the sampling marketing campaign, the rover will dwelling a complete of a lot more than 30 samples. Held in sealed containers, they will each and every be approx. 1 cm in diameter, a number of centimetres extended and alongside one another will weigh roughly fifty percent a kilogram.

Programs are underway for these samples to be returned to Earth in close to 10 years’ time. This will mark the first time that exclusively selected rocks from Mars will be examined in condition-of-the-artwork labs here on Earth. A enormous intercontinental collaboration and a revolutionary feat for space exploration, the United kingdom is foremost on manufacturing of the ‘Sample Fetch’ return rover.


Notes for editors

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