New Perseverance rover photos from Mars show tantalizing layered rocks

These intriguingly layered rocks are a potential sampling target for NASA's Mars rover Perseverance, mission team members said via Twitter, where they posted this photo on Nov. 4, 2021.
These intriguingly layered rocks are a potential sampling target for NASA's Mars rover Perseverance, mission team members said via Twitter, where they posted this photo on Nov. 4, 2021. (Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech)

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.

In photos: NASA's Mars Perseverance rover mission to the Red Planet

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.

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Elizabeth Howell
Staff Writer, Spaceflight

Elizabeth Howell (she/her), Ph.D., is a staff writer in the spaceflight channel since 2022 covering diversity, education and gaming as well. She was contributing writer for for 10 years before joining full-time. Elizabeth's reporting includes multiple exclusives with the White House and Office of the Vice-President of the United States, an exclusive conversation with aspiring space tourist (and NSYNC bassist) Lance Bass, speaking several times with the International Space Station, witnessing five human spaceflight launches on two continents, flying parabolic, working inside a spacesuit, and participating in a simulated Mars mission. Her latest book, "Why Am I Taller?", is co-written with astronaut Dave Williams. Elizabeth holds a Ph.D. and M.Sc. in Space Studies from the University of North Dakota, a Bachelor of Journalism from Canada's Carleton University and a Bachelor of History from Canada's Athabasca University. Elizabeth is also a post-secondary instructor in communications and science at several institutions since 2015; her experience includes developing and teaching an astronomy course at Canada's Algonquin College (with Indigenous content as well) to more than 1,000 students since 2020. Elizabeth first got interested in space after watching the movie Apollo 13 in 1996, and still wants to be an astronaut someday. Mastodon: