NASA’s Perseverance rover keeps dropping early Christmas presents on Mars.
On Friday (December 23), NASA announced that Perseverance has successfully dropped its second rock sample tube onto the surface of Mars. And while it’s not the first sample of Mars Perseverance has dropped for a possible future mission to Earth in 2033, it’s certainly the largest.
“My second sample drop looks good!” NASA’s Perseverance Rover team has reached out a twitter update (opens in new tab) Friday. “This tube contains a piece of sedimentary rock from the edge of the ancient river delta here — the longest rock core I’ve taken so far.”
Related: 12 amazing photos from the first year of Perseverance on Mars
The longest rock core collected by Perseverance is a sample called “Mageik,” which the rover drilled this fall from the “Amalik” rock in the Enchanted Lake region of the ancient delta at its landing site at Jezero Crater.
“The tube itself is about the size of a marker, and I measured the rock core sample inside at 7.36 cm (about 2.9 inches),” NASA wrote as Perseverance on twitter (opens in new tab). Perseverance dropped its first sample vial at a nearby location on Wednesday (December 21).
Perseverance drops 10 sealed tubes of Mars Rock Samples, resembling miniature lightsabers from Star Wars, for potentially collecting from a future Mars Sample Return mission. This mission and an orbiter could launch to Mars by 2028 and return the sample tubes to Earth five years later. If all goes according to plan, Perseverance or two small helicopters will deliver Mars samples to a lander, which will then launch them into space for a waiting orbiter to collect for the journey back to Earth.
The samples Perseverance drops are backups. The rover collected twin samples from each drill site, storing one in its body while dropping the other in case a backup is needed. Persistence is expected to bring those wearing it to the waiting lander if nuclear propulsion lasts long enough to reach the Mars Sample Return lander at the end of the decade.
NASA’s Perseverance rover landed on Mars in February 2021. Its main mission will last two years, but NASA hopes the rover could live much longer. Its predecessor, the nuclear-powered rover Curiosity, recently celebrated its 10th anniversary on Mars in August.