Only two days after successfully acquiring its first Mars rock sample for storage in a titanium tube, NASA collected and stored a second sample — and it is already scouting for the perfect place from which to drill its third core. The space agency has named these first two samples “Montdenier” and “Montagnac,” and they’ve already revealed some details about the Martian planet.
Perseverance is equipped with systems that enable it to drill thin pencil-like samples of rock from the Martian surface, then deposit and seal them in small titanium tubes. These tubes will be placed in different spots on Mars for a future joint mission between NASA and the ESA to retrieve. The goal is to study the rock samples on Earth.
Following a failed first attempt, NASA collected its first rock sample on September 6 — and, in an announcement today, it revealed that a second sample was collected on September 8. At this point, it looks like the third sample collection will take place in a region called South Séítah, which is around 200 meters from where the Perseverance rover is currently located.
While the first two rock samples are likely part of the Jezero Crater’s youngest rock layers, the South Séítah location will likely provide cores of older rock, offering researchers a more expansive understanding of the landscape and the planet’s geological timeline. The third collection attempt likely won’t happen for a while, however.
At the beginning of October, NASA plans to bring its Mars rovers into a stand-down mode for several weeks as the Red Planet undergoes its solar conjunction. This is a safety measure that will help protect the rovers. NASA says that it likely won’t move the rover to the third target and collect the sample until after this period of downtime is over.