July 21, 2024

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The additional traveler will return from Mars in Perseverance sample tubes

The additional traveler will return from Mars in Perseverance sample tubes

The Perseverance rover has been working on Mars for more than three years, collecting rock samples that will eventually be brought to Earth if all goes according to plan. But the spacecraft also picked up travellers, in the form of traces of the Martian atmosphere that were squeezed into the “headspace” of sample tubes.

This is very exciting for atmospheric scientists, who have so far only studied Martian air from a distance, whether from orbiters mapping the planet from above or from rovers providing readings to experts on the ground. If all this works, it would be a nice bonus for these scientists to analyze Martian rocks in terrestrial laboratories.

But forget rock samples, the physical material that planetary scientists hope will explain the evolution of Mars, and which astrobiologists hope contains signs of ancient life on the fourth planet from the sun.

“People think the Moon is devoid of air, but its atmosphere is very fragile and interacts with lunar surface rocks over time,” Just Simon, a geochemist at NASA’s Johnson Space Center, said in an article. NASA launch. “This includes noble gases escaping from the Moon’s interior and collecting on the Moon’s surface.”

The team will apply insights gained from the 2021 study of the Moon’s very thin atmosphere, which was based on samples brought back by the Apollo 17 mission. The team placed the gas in a cold trap. By lowering the temperature in a closed container, the team was able to capture some of the gas in the sample at the bottom of the trap. The same rules apply to any interrogation of the Martian atmosphere found in the headspace of rock sample tubes.

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Martian air will give researchers the opportunity to understand how Martian dust filters through the planet’s air, which sometimes turns into Martian dust devils – one of which He ran directly over Perseverance In 2022. Air samples could also reveal how much water vapor is present just above the planet’s surface. This, in turn, could reveal aspects of the water cycle on Mars, a system that persists during regular cycles of frost and thaw on Mars, even though there is no liquid water on the planet’s surface.

The Martian air has recently become a fascinating place to explore. Nearly three years agoThe valiant Ingenuity helicopter flew into the Martian sky The first vehicle to achieve powered and controlled flight On another planet.

But there is a big problem preventing NASA scientists from exploring samples from the surface and sky of Mars: cost. the Mars sample return mission It’s an expensive cost — initially set at $7 billion, now estimated at $11 billion — that is delaying the mission’s timeline. in April, NASA asked industry players To come up with ideas to make the task possible. At this point, Perseverance has collected more than two dozen rock samples, selected for their ability to reveal aspects of the planet’s geochemistry, geological history, and other aspects of its formation and evolution.

At this point, using tools to capture, recover and decipher the composition of another planet’s sky seems like the easy part. The hard part is actually financing such an endeavor.

more: This albatross-like aircraft could one day fly over Mars

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