NASA recently released a new video revealing how its Mars Perseverance rover collected its youngest rock samples from Mars. Since the rover landed on Mars on Feb. 21, 2021, it has continued to explore the Jezero crater to meet its mission goals. Perseverance rover has collected 23 samples of Martian rocks as of Nov. 2023.
The rover sealed its obtained samples in tubes. Scientists hope to return these rock samples to Earth as part of the Mars Sample Return mission. NASA and the European Space Agency (ESA) are already working together to return these collected samples to Earth in the future.
The recently released video showed the 21st sample obtained by Perseverance which is called “Pilot Mountain.” NASA believed that it could be the youngest preserved material the rover has collected from the ancient dry lakebed of the Jezero Crater.
“This is my favorite rock, and the reason it’s my favorite rock is because we think it represents some of the youngest preserved material on the Jezero Crater Western Fan,” Perseverance Rover geologist and science operator Samantha Gwizd said in the video. “Comparing rocks from different ages is important because Mars, like Earth, had environments that evolved and changed through time. And so, in acquiring one of the youngest samples at Jezero Crater, we’ll be able to see how things changed on the planet.”
Why Samples from Mars are Important to NASA
Steven Sholes, the Perseverance systems operator explained that NASA scientists anticipated collecting some young material even while planning for the design of the rover. Sholes believed that these obtained samples from Mars would help them to study Mars’s geological history.
He also noted that the Mars Ingenuity helicopter first discovered the region in which the rover will obtain the sample in 2021. This implies that the Dream Lake has remained unknown and hidden from scientists until the flight of Ingenuity two years ago.
“We wanted to do that at a place called Fall River Pass. But it turns out Ingenuity, just by happenstance, landed, and it showed very interesting rocks that we hadn’t seen yet,” Sholes added. “We decided to go and investigate Dream Lake because of the images that we had acquired from the Ingenuity helicopter.”
Sholes also said that they discovered something fascinating when Perseverance removed the upper layers of the rocks at Dream Lake
“We saw these great green, glassy grains which were something that we hadn’t really seen in these sedimentary rocks before,” Sholes continued, “So we really wanted to take a look at this to see whether or not they had carbonates, and this represents some of the youngest material that we are seeing.”
Once NASA and ESA return these samples to Earth, scientists will discover the geological secrets of Mars. This discovery will enable researchers to learn how Mars went from possessing Earth-like features to becoming a dry hostile planet.
Scientists could also discover some traces of ancient microbial life that once habited Mars. Hence, our next greatest discoveries of the red planet lie on the samples from Mars obtained from Perseverance Rover.