NASA is making final preparations for its Perseverance Mars rover to collect its first-ever sample of Martian rock, which future planned missions will transport to Earth, the agency announced Wednesday (21 July).
The six-wheeled geologist is searching for a scientifically interesting target in a part of Jezero Crater called the "Cratered Floor Fractured Rough." This important mission milestone is expected to begin within the next two weeks.
Perseverance landed in Jezero Crater on 18 February, and NASA kicked off the rover mission's science phase 1 June, exploring a 1.5-square-mile (4-square-kilometre) patch of crater floor that may contain Jezero's deepest and most ancient layers of exposed bedrock.
"When Neil Armstrong took the first sample from the Sea of Tranquillity 52 years ago, he began a process that would rewrite what humanity knew about the Moon," said Thomas Zurbuchen, associate administrator for science at NASA Headquarters.
"I have every expectation that Perseverance's first sample from Jezero Crater, and those that come after, will do the same for Mars. We are on the threshold of a new era of planetary science and discovery."
It took Armstrong 3 minutes and 35 seconds to collect that first Moon sample.
Perseverance will require about 11 days to complete its first sampling, as it must receive its instructions from hundreds of millions of miles away while relying on the most complex and capable, as well as the cleanest, mechanism ever to be sent into space - the Sampling and Caching System.