Skip to main content

Perseverance rover collects its first sample from Jezero delta

Things are heating up on Mars, as the Perseverance rover begins its new science campaign. In its previous science campaign, the NASA rover explored the floor of the Jezero crater, but now it has moved on to investigate an exciting location called the delta. As the site of an ancient river delta, this region is a great location to search for evidence of ancient life and to find rocks carried from far-off locations by the river that was there millions of years ago.

Perseverance collected its first sample of this science campaign last week, on Thursday, March 30. This is the 19th sample of rock and dust that the rover has collected so far, with 10 of those samples carefully left behind in a sample cache on the Martian surface. The latest sample was collected from a rock named “Berea” which is thought to be made up of deposits that were carried by the river.

This image shows the rocky outcrop the Perseverance science team calls Berea after the NASA Mars rover extracted a rock core and abraded a circular patch. The image was taken by the rover's Mastcam-Z instrument on March 30, 2023.
This image shows the rocky outcrop the Perseverance science team calls Berea after the NASA Mars rover extracted a rock core and abraded a circular patch. The image was taken by the rover’s Mastcam-Z instrument on March 30, 2023. NASA/JPL-Caltech/ASU/MSSS

The rock sample seems to be rich in carbonate, making it an exciting target for scientists as it could potentially hold clues to whether there was ancient life nearby. “Carbonate rocks on Earth can be good at preserving fossilized lifeforms. If biosignatures were present in this part of Jezero Crater, it could be a rock like this one that could very well hold their secrets,” explained Katie Stack Morgan, deputy project scientist for Perseverance at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, in a statement.

Carbonates are intriguing for another reason, which is that they could help to answer a long-standing mystery about Mars’ climate. Carbonates are formed when water and carbon dioxide interact with other compounds, and we know that there is plenty of carbon dioxide in the martian atmosphere and there was once plenty of water on the surface too. But we rarely see carbonate deposits on Mars today, and it’s not clear why. Understanding more about this mystery can help scientists build up a better picture of Mars’ history.

“The Berea core highlights the beauty of rover missions,” said Perseverance’s project scientist, Ken Farley of Caltech. “Perseverance’s mobility has allowed us to collect igneous samples from the relatively flat crater floor during the first campaign, and then travel to the base of the crater’s delta, where we found fine-grained sedimentary rocks deposited in a dried lakebed.

“Now we are sampling from a geologic location where we find coarse-grained sedimentary rocks deposited in a river. With this diversity of environments to observe and collect from, we are confident that these samples will allow us to better understand what occurred here at Jezero Crater billions of years ago.”

Editors' Recommendations

Georgina Torbet
Georgina is the Digital Trends space writer, covering human space exploration, planetary science, and cosmology. She…
NASA’s Mars rover uses its self-driving smarts to navigate toughest route
A composite image showing Perseverance’s path through a dense section of boulders.

A composite image, annotated at JPL using visualization software, showing Perseverance’s path through a dense section of boulders. The pale blue line indicates the course of the center of the front wheel hubs, while darker blue lines show the paths of the rover’s six wheels. NASA/JPL-Caltech

NASA’s Mars rover, Perseverance, has used its self-driving smarts to successfully navigate its most challenging route since arriving on the planet two-and-a-half years ago. Even better, its advanced technology meant it took just a third of the time that it would’ve taken other NASA Mars rovers.

Read more
Perseverance rover’s Mars oxygen machine comes to the end of its mission
Technicians at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory lower the Mars Oxygen In-Situ Resource Utilization Experiment (MOXIE) instrument into the belly of the Perseverance rover.

The experiment to make oxygen on Mars has come to an end, with the Perseverance rover's MOXIE instrument completing its mission. MOXIE, or Mars Oxygen In-Situ Resource Utilization Experiment, is a small box tucked inside the rover that takes in carbon dioxide from the Martian atmosphere and converts it into oxygen. After 16 successful runs, the experiment has now been concluded.

Technicians at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory lower the Mars Oxygen In-Situ Resource Utilization Experiment (MOXIE) instrument into the belly of the Perseverance rover. NASA/JPL-Caltech

Read more
NASA’s Perseverance rover shows off its latest Mars find
mars 2020 perseverance rover

NASA’s Perseverance rover is continuing to explore Mars’ Jezero Crater in its search for evidence of ancient microbial life on the distant planet.

The vehicle -- NASA’s most technologically advanced rover to date -- arrived on the red planet in February 2021 in a breathtaking landing captured by high-definition cameras.

Read more