NASA Shows Off ‘First Letter to Be Laser-Engraved on Mars’

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This tale is portion of Welcome to Mars, our series discovering the purple earth.

When it arrives to rocks from Mars, specifics issue. NASA intends to carry little rock samples collected by the Perseverance rover back again to Earth for study. That means maintaining keep track of of not just where the samples arrived from in the Jezero Crater, but also their original orientation in the host rock. To do that, the rover is partaking in a tiny bodily graffiti on the red planet. 

Perseverance employed a laser which is portion of its mast-mounted SuperCam instrument to zap 3 dots in the condition of the letter L into a rock in June. It is really not gratuitous graffiti, even though. There is a persuasive science purpose.

SuperCam principal investigator Roger Wiens explained the L as “the initial letter to be laser-engraved on Mars” in a mission update on Thursday that goes into detail on why the rover did this.

The rover is investigating an historic river delta that may give us the most effective possibility of locating proof of past microbial everyday living on Mars. That suggests rock samples collected there are specially crucial. 

Over and above the look for for lifestyle, the rocks introduced back could also support scientists reconstruct the historical past of Mars’ magnetic field and its influence on the planet’s ambiance. Scientists who examine this want to know the orientation of the rock bits “to have an understanding of the first instructions of magnetic domains in the samples.” That’s in which the laser marking system arrives in.

As Wiens details out, it’s very simple to determine out orientation for rock samples that have simply recognizable characteristics. “On the other hand, if the surface area is high-quality-grained, there may perhaps be nothing to distinguish its rotational orientation. In that circumstance, we want to make synthetic markings on the surface,” he wrote. The wonderful-grained rocks of the river delta region have been a perfect position to take a look at this out.

The staff chose a capital L as a basic and productive way of producing a directional mark. “With the dry run successful, we are completely ready to use the process to mark future samples,” wrote Wiens.

The rover could use its writing capabilities to etch all kinds of messages into Mars rocks (like “Percy wuz below”), but NASA is a lot more intrigued in using the rolling lab’s energies for science and not silliness. Perseverance may perhaps not enterprise any deeper into the alphabet than L, but that 1 minimal letter could be extremely vital for Mars investigate.

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