Meet the Mars Samples: Salette and Coulettes (Samples 4 and 5)
Meet two of the Martian samples that have been collected and are awaiting return to Earth as part of the Mars Sample Return campaign. As of late June 2023, NASA’s Mars Perseverance rover has collected and sealed 20 scientifically selected samples inside pristine tubes. The next stage is to get them back 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.
Learn more about Samples No. 4 and 5 – “Salette” and “Coulettes” – a pair of igneous rock samples collected from the floor of Jezero Crater. These samples capture a diversity of minerals that scientists believe show evidence of habitability on Mars.
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).
MARS ROCK SAMPLES
SAMPLE 4 & 5: SALETTE & COULETTES
LOCATION: SOUTH SÉÍTAH, CRATER FLOOR
ASTROBIOLOGIST - MARS PERSEVERANCE ROVER
[Sunanda Sharma] Sample 4 is called “Salette” and sample 5 is “Coulettes.” We picked these both up in a region called “South Séítah” in the crater floor.
These samples were interesting because they captured some of the diversity in terms of minerals that are in the rocks in the crater floor. So we saw signs that we think are from sulfates; we saw these little white crystals and we think those are captured in the rocks that we collected. And those are evidence of alteration with water of the rocks that are on Mars.
We also saw really strong signals of carbonates, and carbonates are exciting because they are also a record of water interaction with rocks and indications of pH neutral environments, which means that the environment was likely habitable a long time ago. We also saw signs of hydration, which means there's actually water trapped in these rocks.
Out of these two samples, we decided to drop Coulettes in our sample depot at Three Forks.
Sulfates and carbonates and phosphates tell us more about the aqueous history of Mars and so we were able to pick up that evidence in these samples.
For more information on Mars Rock Samples: mars.nasa.gov/mars-rock-samples