When this image slid up the screen on Instagram, I thought it was a piece of trash dropped in the desert, maybe something off the suspension system of a 4×4.
Then, as I was ready to ignore it and swipe up to the next image – or reel as everything seems to be on instagram nowadays – it looked a bit like a light sabre.
But then I noticed the tiny bit of wheel in the toplight hand corner, and the shadow, and the colour of the earth and I thought… that’s a bit bit of Mars Rover that’s fallen off!
I was right, but not entirely. It has been dropped on purpose – by Perseverance the Mars Rover.
It’s a soil/core sample.
Perseverance is working away, quietly, on its own, finding interesting rocks and sites and drilling for samples.
It takes two cores. It stores one and drops the other – with precise coordinates. in time, the Mars Sample Return vehicle with team up with Perseverance and the stored samples will be transferred to the return vehicle which will blast off to return the samples to Earth. Incredible.
But, should something go horribly wrong with Perseverance – which is working way above expectation already – the return craft has its own recovery helicopter!
The helicopter will fly to the coordinates and pick up the “light sabres” and bring them back to the return vehicle.
Helicopter? Perseverance has its own helicopter flying now – it’s called ingenuity. It’s a tried and tested technology. There is just enough atmosphere to make the rotors work and push som Martian air around and gain lift.
We truly live in an incredible time! Learn more about the Mars Sample Return here and about Mars helicopters here.