The NASA Perseverance rover takes a full-body selfie on the pebbly Mars landscape after successfully completing its first sample depot. A horizon line can be seen in the distance, as well as wheel tracks and sample tubes on the surface—one of which is directly in front of the wheeled robot the size of a car.
NASA’s Perseverance took around 6 weeks to create the first sample depot on Mars. Saturday, NASA JPL made the announcement that the rover had successfully placed ten tubes on the ground of Mars in a particular pattern that would enable a future mission to come and retrieve them, if necessary.
Percy’s perseverance is indeed bound to pay off as the scientists will closely get to examine the returning pieces of Mars to Earth. The upcoming Mars Sample Return (MSR) mission, which will bring rocks from Mars to Earth in the 2030s, will rely heavily on the sample depot.
The completion of the depot was deemed a significant breakthrough by NASA—It required accurate navigation and planning to ensure that the tubes could be collected by two helicopters from the MSR mission.
The rover has been collecting samples in pairs and NASA anticipates that Percy will personally deliver its samples to the MSR lander; however if anything obstructs the same, the sample depot and helicopters will serve as a backup.
The rover also dropped a “witness” tube along with a sample of the Martian atmosphere—this can help scientists understand whether any unintentional contamination from Earth occurred or not.
As Perseverance navigates an ancient river delta, the depot completion paves way for new explorations. Since early 2021, the rover has been residing on Mars and has already demonstrated that it is a scientific powerhouse. Its rock samples might completely change the way we think about life in our solar system.