Use the Force, Percy!
Mars Perseverance Sol 669 - Right Mastcam-Z Camera: This image of a tube containing a rock sample was taken by Mastcam-Z on Sol 669 (January 7, 2023). Samples are currently being deposited by the Perseverance rover in the Three Forks region of Jezero Crater, Mars, for potential return to Earth. Credits: NASA/JPL-Caltech/ASU. Download image ›

What do you see in the picture above - an abandoned lightsaber dropped by a Jedi Knight, lying forgotten amidst the Tattoine sand? It may look like a scene straight out of Star Wars, but sometimes life imitates art. The apparent “lightsaber” is actually an ~18 cm (~7 in) long sample tube holding a rock core drilled by NASA’s Perseverance rover, collected from Jezero Crater, Mars, for potential return to Earth. Instead of a long time ago in a galaxy far away, this little tube was dropped just a few days ago on January 3, 2023, at a carefully selected spot in the “Three Forks” region, which lies within a desiccated ancient lakebed on the surface of Earth’s neighboring planet. This tube is one of 10 that are currently being deposited in a “depot-building” process that is expected to take about a month.

Perseverance spent nearly a full Martian year (which is 699 sols, or days on Mars - this corresponds to about 687 Earth days) collecting these samples during its “prime mission,” using onboard instruments to perform robotic analyses of rock and atmosphere to help scientists and engineers decide where to drill each core. So far, Perseverance has taken two paired cores during each sampling event, placing one in the Three Forks backup cache (set of samples) and storing the duplicate onboard in a primary cache that will stay with the rover as it continues its traverse up to the top of the delta. During this “extended” phase of the mission, more samples will be added to the primary cache, which will be carried by Perseverance as the traverse across the delta continues. One of the caches will be collected and returned to Earth as part of the Mars Sample Return (MSR) mission in 2031.

When the time comes, another spacecraft will fly from Earth to Mars, land the Sample Retriever Lander near the rover (or the dropped cache), retrieve the samples using the force - or Sample Recovery Helicopters modeled after Mars 2020’s Ingenuity, launch the core collection off the surface with the Mars Ascent Vehicle, rendezvous with the European Space Agency’s Earth Return Orbiter, and finally make the traverse back to Earth in a journey that will take about 12 parsecs - give or take eight months - so that scientists can study these fascinating samples right here at home for decades to come!

About This Blog

These blog updates are provided by self-selected Mars 2020 mission team members who love to share what Perseverance is doing with the public.

Dates of planned rover activities described in these blogs are subject to change due to a variety of factors related to the Martian environment, communication relays and rover status.

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  • Mariah Baker
    Planetary Scientist, Smithsonian National Air & Space Museum
    Washington, DC
  • Matthew Brand
    SuperCam/ChemCam Engineer, Los Alamos National LaboratoryLos Alamos National Laboratory
  • Sawyer Brooks
    Docking Systems Engineer, NASA/JPL
    Pasadena, CA
  • Adrian Brown
    Deputy Program Scientist, NASA HQ
    Washington, DC
  • Denise Buckner
    Student Collaborator, University of Florida
    Gainesville, FL
  • Fred Calef III
    Mapping Specialist, NASA/JPL
    Pasadena, CA
  • Stephanie Connell
    SuperCam, PhD Student, Purdue University
    West Lafayette, IN
  • Alyssa Deardorff
    Systems Engineer, NASA/JPL
    Pasadena, CA
  • Kenneth Farley
    Project Scientist, Caltech
    Pasadena, CA
  • Phylindia Gant
    Mars 2020 Student Collaborator, University of Florida
    Gainesville, FL
  • Brad Garczynski
    Student Collaborator, Purdue University
    West Lafayette, IN
  • Erin Gibbons
    Student Collaborator, McGill University
    Montreal, Canada
  • Michael Hecht
    Mars Oxygen In-Situ Resource Utilization Experiment (MOXIE) Principal Investigator, Massachusetts Institute of Technology
    Westford, MA
  • Louise Jandura
    Chief Engineer for Sampling & Caching, NASA/JPL
    Pasadena, CA
  • Elisha Jhoti
    Ph.D. Student, University of California, Los Angeles
    Los Angeles, CA
  • Bavani Kathir
    Student Collaborator on Mastcam-Z, Western Washington University
  • Lydia Kivrak
    Student Collaborator, University of Florida
    Gainesville, FL
  • Rachel Kronyak
    Systems Engineer, NASA/JPL
    Pasadena, CA
  • Steven Lee
    Perseverance Deputy Project Manager, NASA/JPL
    Pasadena, CA
  • An Li
    Student Collaborator on PIXL, University of Washington
  • Justin Maki
    Imaging Scientist and Mastcam-Z Deputy Principal Investigator, NASA/JPL
  • Forrest Meyen
    MOXIE Science Team Member, Lunar Outpost
  • Sarah Milkovich
    Assistant Science Manager, NASA/JPL
    Pasadena, CA
  • Eleanor Moreland
    Ph.D. Student, Rice University
    Houston, Texas
  • Matt Muszynski
    Vehicle Systems Engineer, NASA/JPL
    Pasadena, CA
  • Claire Newman
    Atmospheric Scientist, Aeolis Research
    Altadena, CA
  • Avi Okon
    Sampling Operations Deputy Lead, NASA/JPL
    Pasadena, CA
  • Pegah Pashai
    Vehicle Systems Engineer Lead, NASA/JPL
    Pasadena, CA
  • David Pedersen
    Co-Investigator, PIXL Instrument, Technical University of Denmark (DTU)
    Copenhagen, Denmark
  • Eleni Ravanis
    Student Collaborator, University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa
    Honolulu, HI
  • Kathryn Stack
    Deputy Project Scientist, NASA/JPL
    Pasadena, CA
  • Vivian Sun
    Science Operations Systems Engineer, Staff Scientist, NASA/JPL
    Pasadena, CA
  • Iona (Brockie) Tirona
    Sampling Engineer, NASA/JPL
    Pasadena, CA
  • Jennifer Trosper
    Project Manager, NASA/JPL
    Pasadena, CA
  • Vandi Verma
    Chief Engineer for Robotic Operations, NASA/JPL
    Pasadena, CA
  • Rick Welch
    Deputy Project Manager, NASA/JPL
    Pasadena, CA
  • Roger Wiens
    Principal Investigator, SuperCam / Co-Investigator, SHERLOC instrument, Purdue University
    West Lafayette, IN

Tools on the Perseverance Rover+

The Perseverance rover has tools to study the history of its landing site, seek signs of ancient life, collect rock and soil samples, and help prepare for human exploration of Mars. The rover carries:


Where is the Rover?

Image of a rover pin-point at Perseverance's location on Mars, Jezero Crater

View Map ›