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Perseverance Mars rover bags 12th Red Planet rock sample

NASA's Mars rover Perseverance collected its 12th Red Planet rock sample on Aug. 3, 2022.

NASA’s Mars rover Perseverance collected its 12th Red Planet rock sample on Aug. 3, 2022.(Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/ASU)

NASA’s Perseverance rover has collected twelve Martian rocks.

The car-sized Perseverance drilled out and sealed up its 12th rock sample on Wednesday (Aug. 3), mission associates announced via Twitter (opens in new tab) today (Aug. 5) its fourth such operation in under per month.

In February 2021, Perseverance landed with NASA’s tiny Ingenuity helicopter on to the floor of the 28-mile-wide (45 kilometers) Jezero Crater, which harbored a large lake and a river delta vast amounts of years back. The six-wheeled rover is trying to find signs of ancient Mars life and bagging up a large number of samples for future go back to Earth, among other tasks.

Related: 12 amazing photos from the Perseverance rover’s 1st year on Mars

The initial eight rock samples that Perseverance collected from September 2021 to March of the year were volcanic in origin, based on the mission team’s sample log (opens in new tab). However the last four, that have been gathered between July 7 and Wednesday, all result from sedimentary rocks.

As that change suggests, Perseverance is currently exploring a remnant of the delta, examining layered rock formations that developed as time passes as silt fell out of Jezero’s ancient river. Such deposits tend to be more likely than volcanic ones to harbor organic compounds along with other possible signs of Mars life, if it ever existed, Perseverance associates have said. So it is unsurprising that the sample-collecting pace has found.

Perseverance posesses total of 43 sample tubes, 38 which can be filled up with Martian rock and dirt. Another five are “witness tubes,” which can only help the mission team determine which materials, if any, in collected samples could be contaminants from Earth.

Perseverance has sealed up 15 of these 43 tubes. Twelve contain rock cores, one holds Martian air, and another two are witness tubes. (The “atmospheric sample” was sealed in the aftermath of Perseverance’s abortive first rock grab, an August 2021 attempt that failed once the drilled material crumbled to bits.)

These tubes will undoubtedly be taken to Earth by way of a joint NASA-European Space Agency (ESA) campaign, perhaps as soon as 2033. The architecture of this campaign changed recently; NASA and ESA made a decision to eliminate an ESA-provided “fetch rover” and rely instead on Perseverance and, if needed, two Ingenuity-like helicopters to provide the sample tubes to the NASA rocket which will launch them off the Martian surface.

Mike Wall may be the writer of “ON THE MARKET (opens in new tab)” (Grand Central Publishing, 2018; illustrated by Karl Tate), a book concerning the seek out alien life. Follow him on Twitter @michaeldwall (opens in new tab). Follow us on Twitter @Spacedotcom (opens in new tab) or on Facebook (opens in new tab).

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Mike Wall

Michael Wall is really a Senior Space Writer (opens in new tab)and joined the team in 2010.He primarily covers exoplanets, spaceflight and military space, but has been recognized to dabble in the area art beat.His book concerning the seek out alien life, “ON THE MARKET,” was published on Nov. 13, 2018. Before learning to be a science writer, Michael worked as a herpetologist and wildlife biologist. He’s got a Ph.D. in evolutionary biology from the University of Sydney, Australia, a bachelor’s degree from the University of Arizona, and a graduate certificate in science writing from the University of California, Santa Cruz. To discover what his latest project is, it is possible to follow Michael on Twitter.

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