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Perseverance rover on Mars bites into layered rocks in hunt for clues of ancient water

perseverance mars
Perseverance's robotic arm abrades the surface layer of a rock on Mars in November 2021. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech (Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech)

NASA's Perseverance rover on Mars has begun scraping away at an intriguing set of layered rocks that may have formed in liquid water.

"Peering inside to look at something no one's ever seen," Perseverance rover mission managers wrote in a Twitter update (opens in new tab) Tuesday (Nov. 9). "I've abraded a small patch of this rock to remove the surface layer and get a look underneath. Zeroing in on my next target for #SamplingMars."

The rover has already collected two samples on its larger hunt to search for ancient microbes on Mars. The goal is to get a large set of these collections to place into a cache, and leave behind for a future sample-return mission to pick up.

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

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Perseverance, which has been in remaining in place since a solar conjunction temporarily interrupted communications last month, is also on a larger mission to look for evidence on the floor of Jezero Crater and to characterize the geology of the area, among other duties.

The rover hasn't moved very far since solar conjunction, with the odometer remaining at 1.66 miles (2.67 km) for several weeks. But its mission partner, the Ingenuity drone, has already taken to the air again. Ingenuity's aerial photos are meant to provide a wider context for Perseverance's work as the rover zeroes in on potential targets of interest.

Ingenuity completed its 15th Martian flight on Nov. 6 as it continues an extended mission testing out flying in changing conditions on the Red Planet, and assisting a land-bound rover with its work.

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Elizabeth Howell
Staff Writer, Spaceflight

Elizabeth Howell, Ph.D., is a staff writer in the spaceflight channel since 2022. She was contributing writer for Space.com (opens in new tab) for 10 years before that, since 2012. As a proud Trekkie and Canadian, she also tackles topics like diversity, science fiction, astronomy and gaming to help others explore the universe. Elizabeth's on-site reporting includes two human spaceflight launches from Kazakhstan, three space shuttle missions in Florida, and embedded reporting from a simulated Mars mission in Utah. She holds a Ph.D. and M.Sc. in Space Studies from the University of North Dakota, and a Bachelor of Journalism from Canada's Carleton University. Elizabeth is also a post-secondary instructor in communications and science since 2015. Her latest book, Leadership Moments from NASA, is co-written with astronaut Dave Williams. Elizabeth first got interested in space after watching the movie Apollo 13 in 1996, and still wants to be an astronaut someday.