Washington, 22 July 2021 (dpa/MIA) – NASA’s Perseverance rover is preparing to collect its first Martian rock sample, the US space agency said Wednesday.
The collection, which NASA called a milestone of the mission, is set to begin within the next two weeks.
“We are on the threshold of a new era of planetary science and discovery,” NASA associate administrator for science Thomas Zurbuchen said.
The process will take around 11 days and involves the use of various scientific instruments on board the Perseverance rover. The rover will hermetically seal and the sample.
When and how exactly the probe will be sent back to earth is not yet planned.
Subsequent NASA missions that are currently being developed with the European Space Agency will send spacecraft to Mars to collect the sealed samples and return them to Earth.
Perseverance landed on Mars at the end of February in a risky manoeuvre. The development and construction of the rover cost around 2.5 billion dollars and lasted eight years.
Its mission is to seek traces of earlier microbial life on the Red Planet and research its geology and climate.
A mini-helicopter was also brought to Mars with the rover. In mid-April it took off on Mars – marking the first flight on another planet.
Since then, the Ingenuity helicopter has completed nine flights and its original 30-day mission has been extended.