Mars Rock Samples: What Will We Learn?

By Keith Cowing
Status Report
December 6, 2023
Filed under , , ,
Mars Rock Samples: What Will We Learn?
This image shows a concept model of NASA’s orbiting sample container, which will hold tubes of Martian rock and soil samples that will be returned to Earth through a Mars sample return campaign. At right is the lid; bottom left sits a model of the sample-holding tube. The sample container will help keep contents at less than about 86 degrees Fahrenheit (30 degrees Celsius) to help preserve the Mars material in its most natural state. larger image — NASA

What secrets could we unravel by studying Mars samples in state-of-the-art labs on Earth? Scientists around the globe are eager to find out.

As of late fall 2023, NASA’s Perseverance Mars rover has collected 21 scientifically selected samples of Martian rock, which scientists believe may hold extraordinary evidence to help answer centuries-old questions like – Did life ever exist on Mars? and How did the Red Planet evolve over time?

The Perseverance rover has collected a diverse set of samples, including:

  • Sedimentary rocks, which are good at preserving ancient life
  • Igneous rocks, which can tell us about the early evolution of Mars
  • Regolith, which can provide insight into the global and local landscape of Mars

Through a series of future missions called Mars Sample Return, these samples could be brought to Earth for in-depth study and could help astrobiologists in their search for signs of ancient microbial life on the Red Planet.

Considered one of the highest priorities by the scientists in the Science and Astrobiology Decadal Survey 2023-2032, Mars Sample Return would be the first mission to return samples from another planet and provides the best opportunity to reveal the early evolution of Mars, including the potential for ancient life. NASA is teaming with ESA (European Space Agency) on this important endeavor.

Read about all the carefully selected samples:

Learn more about the Mars Sample Return campaign:

Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/ESA/GSFC/MSFC/JSC/MAVEN/Lunar and Planetary Institute
Images: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS
Mastcam-Z images: NASA/JPL-Caltech/ASU/MSSS

Explorers Club Fellow, ex-NASA Space Station Payload manager/space biologist, Away Teams, Journalist, Lapsed climber, Synaesthete, Na’Vi-Jedi-Freman-Buddhist-mix, ASL, Devon Island and Everest Base Camp veteran, (he/him) 🖖🏻