July 19, 2023

Meet two of the Martian samples that have been collected and are awaiting return to Earth as part of the Mars Sample Return campaign. As of late June 2023, NASA’s Mars Perseverance rover has collected and sealed 20 scientifically selected samples inside pristine tubes. The next stage is to get them back for study.

Considered one of the highest priorities by the scientists in the Science and Astrobiology Decadal Survey 2023-2032, Mars Sample Return would be the first mission to return samples from another planet and provides the best opportunity to reveal the early evolution of Mars, including the potential for ancient life. NASA is teaming with ESA (European Space Agency) on this important endeavor.

Learn more about Samples No. 8 and 9 – “Ha'ahóni” and “Atsá,” two rock samples collected by Perseverance near its original landing site in Jezero Crater. These rock cores were drilled from a boulder that is among the more pristine igneous rocks the rover has sampled. Perseverance found igneous rocks, which form as lava or magma solidifies, throughout the crater floor. Samples No. 8 and 9 potentially represent a unique chapter in the history of Jezero Crater and were the last samples the rover collected on the crater floor before moving on to explore the nearby ancient river delta.

Read about all the carefully selected samples: https://mars.nasa.gov/mars-rock-samples

Learn more about the Mars Sample Return campaign: https://mars.nasa.gov/msr

A key objective for Perseverance's mission on Mars is astrobiology, including the search for signs of ancient microbial life. The rover will characterize the planet's geology and past climate, pave the way for human exploration of the Red Planet, as well as be the first mission to collect and cache Martian rock and regolith (broken rock and dust).








Rachel Kronyak: Sample No. 8 is called “Ha'ahóni.” Sample No. 9 is “Atsá.” This was a sample pair collected near our Octavia E. Butler landing site.

This particular outcrop was interesting because we think it was slightly less altered and represents likely the most pristine of the igneous rocks that we've collected. Pristine refers to how fresh of a surface it is, essentially.

And so some of the other rocks that we collected have evidence for interaction with groundwater. There's minerals in the rocks that form in the presence of water, like carbonates and sulfates and things like that. We didn't see that same type of evidence at this particular outcrop near our landing site. And so we think this pair of samples encountered less interaction with liquid water as some of the other samples that we collected.

There were a couple of sols in between drilling and sealing for Atsá. So we dropped the Atsá sample in our Three Forks sample depot.

This sample pair is from the Máaz formation. So we collected a couple of pairs from the Séítah formation, we collected one from the Máaz formation, and then as we were finishing up our crater floor campaign, we wanted to collect one more sample pair to represent the Máaz formation. So we have roughly the same number of samples from each of the igneous formations that we've encountered. So this was a very valuable sample pair to collect.


For more information on Mars Rock Samples: mars.nasa.gov/mars-rock-samples



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