To find evidence of prehistoric microbial life and better understand the processes that shaped the surface of Mars, scientists want to analyze samples from Mars using high-tech laboratory equipment on Earth. The majority of the monsters will consist of stone. Still, scientists are also interested in studying regolith, or broken rock and dust, not only for what it can reveal about Mars’ geological processes and environment, but also to help astronauts prepare for some of the difficulties they face. will encounter. Regolith is fascinating to scientists and engineers because it can affect everything from solar panels to spacesuits.

On December 2 and 6, NASA’s Perseverance rover retrieved two new samples from the surface of Mars. These samples came from a pile of windblown sand and dust, similar to but smaller than a dune.

One of these two samples, currently housed in specialized metal collection tubes as part of the Mars Sample Return campaign, will be considered for deposit on the Martian surface sometime this month.

These most recent samples were obtained using a drill attached to the rover’s robotic arm, much like rock cores. But for the regolith samples, Perseverance used a drill that looks like a nail with small holes in one end to collect loose material.

Iona Tirona of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Southern California said: “Everything we learn about the size, shape and chemistry of regolite grains will help us design and test better tools for future missions. The more data we have, the more realistic our simulants can be.”

Perseverance team member Erin Gibbons, a doctoral student from McGill University, said: “If we have a more permanent presence on Mars, we need to know how the dust and regolith will interact with our spacecraft and habitats. Some dust particles can be as fine as cigarette smoke and end up in an astronaut’s breathing apparatus.”

“We want a more complete picture of what materials are harmful to our explorers, whether they be humans or robots.”

Libby Hausrath of the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, one of Perseverance’s sample return scientists, said: “There are so many different materials mixed into Martian regolith. Each sample represents an integrated history of the planet’s surface.”