Martian Perseverance Rover Completes Main Duties

Johnny Wentzel
Martian rover
Courtesy of NASA

Almost two years to the day since NASA’s Perseverance rover landed on Mars, the robot has completed the first phase of the Mars Sample Return Mission – by yeeting a bunch of soil and air samples onto the Martian surface.

Background: Perseverance has drilled and recovered ten pairs of soil, rock, and atmospheric samples at “scientifically significant” locations on Mars, with the goal of eventually sending the samples back to Earth for study.

  • For redundancy, one sample from each pair is stored onboard Perseverance, while the remaining samples having been sealed in titanium containers and left on the Martian surface for recovery by a later mission on the first-ever Martian easter egg hunt.

The complicated next step

The next phase of Mars Sample Return Mission is expected to launch as early as 2027, returning samples back to Earth by 2033. But there’s a lot that needs to happen between now and then, as depicted by this movie trailer-like video released by NASA.

  • To completely oversimplify it, Perseverance will load the samples into what is basically a rocket launcher and blast the samples into orbit before starting the journey to Earth.

Zoom out: The recent sample drop marks the end of Perseverance’s intended scientific mission, just a hair under two years after arriving on Mars. However, the rover will persevere (ugh) beyond its intended lifespan as NASA approved the rover team to explore a nearby ancient river delta to see if Life on Mars is more than just a David Bowie song.

+Love from space: NASA created mission-themed valentines for the people in your life who can’t get enough space puns (us, we mean us).