These strikingly layered Mars rocks may be the Perseverance rover's next sampling target.
Perseverance recently snapped some nice photos of layered rocks on the floor of Mars' Jezero Crater, and mission team members shared two of them Thursday (Nov. 4) via the rover's official Twitter account.
"Get a load of these layers! I’m getting out my abrading tool to take a look inside. Layered rocks like this often form in water, and can hold clues about what their environment used to be like. Let’s see if this would be another good place for #SamplingMars," mission team members wrote in the Thursday tweet.
Collecting samples is one of the core goals of Perseverance, which landed on the floor of Mars' Jezero Crater on Feb. 18. The mission team aims to snag several dozen tubes full of pristine Mars material, which will be returned to Earth by a joint NASA-European Space Agency campaign, perhaps as early as 2031.
Scientists in labs around the world will then analyze the samples, looking for signs of ancient Mars life and clues about how the Red Planet has evolved over time.
Perseverance has collected two samples to date. The NASA rover is also looking for evidence of life on Jezero's floor and characterizing the geology of the area, among other tasks.
Perseverance only recently began work again after a solar conjunction, during which the sun blocked Mars from the viewpoint of Earth, interrupting interplanetary communications for a few weeks. Hints of the layered rocks filtered back to Earth just over a week ago, when the rover began beaming home images after the end of solar conjunction.
Valuable context for the layered rocks could come from Perseverance's flight partner, a little helicopter named Ingenuity. Ingenuity also paused operations during conjunction but took to the air again on Oct. 24, completing its 14th Martian flight.
It appears Perseverance hasn't moved very far since the end of solar conjunction, as its distance driven on Mars — 1.66 miles (2.67 kilometers) — is unchanged from when it was first able to send images back to Earth late last month. The rover team often pauses driving operations to perform science at potentially interesting sites, such as the layered rocks Perseverance is now examining.
Follow Elizabeth Howell on Twitter @howellspace. Follow us on Twitter @Spacedotcom and on Facebook.