The Perseverance rover has completed the creation of a depot of duplicate samples of Martian rocks intended for delivery to Earth. This is stated in a message published on the website of the NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory.
Target of the depot of Martian samples
In total, the Perseverance rover is equipped with 43 titanium tubes designed to store samples of Martian soil and atmosphere. They are planned to be delivered to Earth as part of the joint US-European MSR (Mars Sample Return) mission, the implementation of which should begin at the end of this decade.
One of the main issues facing the mission designers is the method of delivery of capsules with samples. The basic plan is to use Perseverance itself. The spacecraft is in good condition, and by the time the MSR arrives, its RTG will still continue to generate enough energy to continue working.
At the same time, any technique breaks down sooner or later. It is also impossible to exclude the possibility of some unforeseen force majeure, due to which Perseverance will lose the ability to move. It is for this case that NASA has developed a backup plan, which provides for the creation of a depot of samples of Martian soil.
What is stored in the depot of Martian samples
The creation of the depot began in December, when Perseverance began unloading ten capsules selected by mission specialists. Eight of them contain duplicates of rocks from the most scientifically interesting sites. Inside the ninth is a sample of the Martian atmosphere. The tenth capsule is a “witness”. Inside it contains materials designed to capture gases and chemicals, the source of which is Perseverance itself. Their analysis would allow scientists to assess the degree of contamination of the collected samples with materials that were brought from Earth.
Ten capsules were unloaded in a zigzag pattern with a distance of 5 to 15 meters from each other on a surface area called Three Forks. After the drop, each capsule was photographed, and its position was recorded on the map. If by the time the MSR arrives, the rover loses the ability to move, they will be picked up and delivered to the return module by two small drones. According to experts, over the next few years, the wind will not be able to shift the capsules much, and they will not be so heavily covered with dust that they cannot be found.
As for Perseverance, after the completion of the depot, the rover continued its scientific program. Currently, it is moving towards the remains of an ancient river delta that once existed on the territory of the Jezero crater.
According to https://www.jpl.nasa.gov
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