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NASA to engrave Martian rock samples to distinguish them

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NASA to engrave Martian rock samples to distinguish them
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Credits: IANS

Washington: US space agency NASA laser marked graffiti on Martian rocks to identify rock samples to be brought to Earth for analysis. The first alphabet to be engraved on the samples was 'L', IANS reported.

At the moment, the agency's Perseverance rover is gathering Martian samples from the 45-kilometre- wide Jezero crater to bring them to Earth. The probe is also searching for signs of ancient Martian life.

The samples were expected to be brought back to Earth by 2031, with the cooperation of NASA and the European Space Agency.

The Principal Investigator Roger Wiens said in a statement that original orientation is necessary for the rock collection. "For each Mars rock core sample that is returned, we need to know its original orientation," said Weins, who is also SuperCam/Co-Investigator, SHERLOC instrument at Purdue University.

This is primarily because samples taken from the fine-grained surface are hard to distinguish.

He said, "If the surfaces of those core samples have easily recognisable features, that's no problem. That has been the case with the cores collected so far. However, if the surface is fine-grained, there may be nothing to distinguish its rotational orientation."

"In that case, we need to make artificial markings on the surface. We don't have a dark marker pen, but we do have a pulsed laser," he added.

After revealing that the first engraved alphabet was L, Weins said, "If your name begins with "L", you will like this post about the first letter to be laser engraved on Mars."

The alphabet was written by Perseverance in June, using a laser that's part of its mast-mounted SuperCam instrument. It zapped three dots in the shape of the letter L into a rock.

"With the dry run successful, we are ready to use the procedure to mark future samples," Wiens said.

The rocks brought back could also help researchers reconstruct the history of Mars' magnetic field and its impact on the planet's atmosphere.

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TAGS:NASA Mars Perseverence samples life magnetic field European Space Agency 2031 
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