In the image above, NASA’s Perseverance Mars rover is collecting two samples of regolith – broken rock and dust – with a regolith sampling bit on the end of its robotic arm. The samples were collected on December 2 and 6, 2022, the 634th and 639th Martian days, or sols, of the mission. The images were taken by one of the rover’s front hazard cameras.
One of the two regolith samples will be considered for deposit on the Martian surface in the coming weeks as part of the Mars Sample Return campaign. Studying regolith with powerful lab equipment back on Earth will allow scientists to better understand the processes that have shaped the surface of Mars and help engineers design future missions as well as equipment used by future Martian astronauts.
Perseverance’s mission on Mars aims to study astrobiology, with a focus on finding evidence of past microbial life. The rover will investigate the planet’s geology and climate history, lay the foundation for future human missions, and collect and store samples of Martian rock and dust. These samples will then be retrieved by future NASA and ESA (European Space Agency) missions and brought back to Earth for extensive examination.
Bringing Mars Rock Samples Back to Earth: This short animation features key moments of NASA and ESA’s Mars Sample Return campaign, from landing on Mars and securing the sample tubes to launching them off the surface and ferrying them back to Earth. Credit: NASA/ESA/JPL-Caltech/GSFC/MSFC