This pair of images shows two cylinders of rock the size of classroom chalk inside the drill of NASA's Perseverance rover from an outcrop called "Wildcat Ridge" in Mars' Jezero Crater. The image of the rock core on the left, called "Hazeltop," was taken by Perseverance's Mastcam-Z instrument on July 25, 2022, the 509th Martian day, or sol, of the mission. The image on the right, of the rock core called "Bearwallow," was taken on Aug. 2, 2022, the 516th sol.
Each core is about 0.5 inches, or 13 millimeters, in diameter and 2.4 inches, or 60 millimeters, long. They were taken from an ancient river delta in Jezero Crater, a fan-shaped area where, billions of years ago, a river once flowed into a lake and deposited rocks and sediment. Scientists interpret these rocks to be fine-grained sedimentary rocks. They appear to have formed under saltwater conditions, possibly as water from the crater's ancient lake was evaporating. These rock cores have been sealed in ultra-clean sample tubes and stored in Perseverance's Sampling and Caching System as part of the mission's search for ancient signs of microbial life. The verification of ancient life on Mars carries an enormous burden of proof.
A key objective for Perseverance's mission on Mars is astrobiology, including the search for signs of ancient microbial life. The rover will characterize the planet's geology and past climate, pave the way for human exploration of the Red Planet, and be the first mission to collect and cache Martian rock and regolith (broken rock and dust).
Subsequent NASA missions, in cooperation with ESA (European Space Agency), would send spacecraft to Mars to collect these sealed samples from the surface and return them to Earth for in-depth analysis.
The Mars 2020 Perseverance mission is part of NASA's Moon to Mars exploration approach, which includes Artemis missions to the Moon that will help prepare for human exploration of the Red Planet.
NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, which is managed for the agency by Caltech in Pasadena, California, built and manages operations of the Perseverance rover. Arizona State University leads the operations of the Mastcam-Z instrument, working in collaboration with Malin Space Science Systems in San Diego, on the design, fabrication, testing, and operation of the cameras, and in collaboration with the Neils Bohr Institute of the University of Copenhagen on the design, fabrication, and testing of the calibration targets.
For more about Perseverance: mars.nasa.gov/mars2020/
For more about the Mars Sample Return campaign: mars.nasa.gov/msr