Meet the Mars Samples: Pilot Mountain (Sample 21)
Meet the 21st Martian sample collected by NASA’s Mars Perseverance rover – “Pilot Mountain,” a rock sample believed to be among the youngest preserved material in Jezero Crater.
The team’s decision to sample this area was based on images taken by the Ingenuity helicopter, which showed interesting rocks scientists had not yet seen. An initial abrasion revealed green, glassy grains that represent some of the youngest material Perseverance has investigated. Comparing rocks of different ages can help shed light on the evolution of the planet.
As of early November 2023, the Perseverance rover has collected and sealed 23 scientifically selected samples inside pristine tubes as part of the Mars Sample Return campaign. The next stage is to get them to Earth for study.
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.
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, as well as be the first mission to collect and cache Martian rock and regolith (broken rock and dust).
Read about all the carefully selected samples: https://mars.nasa.gov/mars-rock-samples
Learn more about the Mars Sample Return campaign: https://mars.nasa.gov/msr
MARS ROCK SAMPLES
SAMPLE 21: PILOT MOUNTAIN
LOCATION: DREAM LAKE, UPPER FAN
GEOLOGIST & SCIENCE OPERATIONS - MARS PERSEVERANCE ROVER
[Samantha Gwizd] Sample 21 is called “Pilot Mountain,” we collected it from the “Dream Lake” rock on the Upper Fan.
So this is my favorite rock and the reason it's my favorite rock is because we think it represents some of the youngest preserved material on the Jezero Crater Western Fan.
SYSTEM OPERATIONS, RESEARCH SCIENTIST - MARS PERSEVERANCE ROVER
[Steven Sholes] During campaign planning, we wanted to collect a sample that constituted the youngest material that we would encounter on our trek across the Upper Fan. We wanted to do that at a place called “Fall River Pass.” But it turns out Ingenuity, just by happenstance, landed and it showed very interesting rocks that we hadn't seen yet. We decided to go and investigate Dream Lake because of the images that we had acquired from the Ingenuity Helicopter.
And when we did our abrasion on the surface, we basically scraped away the upper part of the rock, we saw these great green, glassy grains which were something that we hadn't really seen in these sedimentary rocks before. So we really wanted to take a look at this to see whether or not they had carbonates, and this represents some of the youngest material that we are seeing.
[Samantha Gwizd] Comparing rocks from different ages is important because Mars, like Earth, had environments that evolved and changed through time. And so in acquiring one of the youngest samples at Jezero Crater, we'll be able to see how things changed on the planet.
For more information on Mars Rock Samples: mars.nasa.gov/mars-rock-samples