(ORDO NEWS) — One of the main objectives of the Perseverance mission is to collect a variety of rock samples for subsequent return to Earth.
Among the top-priority rocks for sampling are those that form a well-preserved delta located on the western side of the Lake crater.
This delta was one of the key attributes that made this landing site so attractive for the search for ancient Martian life. Careful study of rocks is critical to interpreting their depositional conditions and establishing whether the environment was previously habitable.
Since landing in the Lake crater last year, the rover has been probing and drilling through the rocks at the bottom of the crater to add to the list of samples. But the rover hasn’t had access to the coveted deltaic rocks yet until now. After a quick dash towards the delta, the rover finally arrived at the delta.
Last week, the rover parked at a site called Enchanted Lake, where the team hoped to sample deltaic rocks for the first time.
But the rover can only collect a limited number of samples, so the team has to carefully weigh all the options, keeping in mind what has already been taken, and also trying to anticipate what we might encounter on the rest of the way. Although we can’t wait to take samples in the delta, we must be prudent.
So our first step at Enchanted Lake was to study the rocks with the rover’s remote scientific instruments to see if they met the desired sampling criteria.
The rocks in this area had many distinctive and interesting characteristics compared to others we have studied so far in the Lake. However, after careful evaluation, the team decided to forego sampling at this location.
It was not an easy decision, but we are optimistic about the opportunities that are opening up. The data collected at Enchanted Lake will be used to provide context for future delta research.
The rover is now heading east to a site called Hawksbill Gap, another promising sampling site in the delta. Moving along the front of the delta, Perseverance will continue collecting data to help characterize contact between the crater floor and deltaic rocks before rising into the delta itself.
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