Perseverance's Three Forks Sample Depot Map
This map shows where NASA's Perseverance Mars dropped each of its 10 samples so that a future mission could pick them up from a sample depot the rover created at a location dubbed "Three Forks" in Jezero Crater. The center of each circle is the location where that sample was deployed, and the red text within that circle indicates the name of the sample as designated by Perseverance's science team.
The tubes were deposited on the surface in an intricate zigzag pattern, with each sample about 15 to 50 feet (5 to 15 meters) apart from one another to ensure they could be safely recovered. The Perseverance team precisely mapped the location of each 7-inch-long (18.6-centimeter-long) tube and glove (adapter) combination so that the samples could be found even if covered with dust. The depot is on flat ground near the base of the raised, fan-shaped ancient river delta that formed long ago when a river flowed into a lake there.
The first sample in the depot was dropped Dec. 21, 2022, the 653rd day, or sol, of the mission; the final sample was deposited Jan. 28, 2023, the 690th day of the mission.
The Three Forks depot, the first sample depot on another world, is a crucial milestone in the NASA-ESA (European Space Agency) Mars Sample Return campaign, which aims to bring Mars samples to Earth for closer study. The Perseverance rover will be the primary means to convey the collected samples to a future robotic lander as part of the campaign. The lander would, in turn, use a robotic arm to place the samples in a containment capsule aboard a small rocket that would blast off to Mars orbit, where another spacecraft would capture the sample container and return it safely to Earth. Hosting the duplicate set, the Three Forks depot will serve as a backup if Perseverance can't deliver its samples.
A key objective for Perseverance's mission on Mars is astrobiology, including the search for signs of ancient microbial life. The rover will characterize the planet's geology and past climate, pave the way for human exploration of the Red Planet, and be the first mission to collect and cache Martian rock and regolith (broken rock and dust).
Subsequent NASA missions, in cooperation with ESA (European Space Agency), would send spacecraft to Mars to collect these sealed samples from the surface and return them to Earth for in-depth analysis.
The Mars 2020 Perseverance mission is part of NASA's Moon to Mars exploration approach, which includes Artemis missions to the Moon that will help prepare for human exploration of the Red Planet.
JPL, which is managed for NASA by Caltech in Pasadena, California, built and manages operations of the Perseverance rover.
For more about Perseverance: mars.nasa.gov/mars2020/