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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 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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These close-up photos show the drill marks mark on a layered Mars rock under study by NASA's Perseverance rover for possible sample collection in November 2021.

These close-up photos show the drill marks mark on a layered Mars rock under study by NASA's Perseverance rover for possible sample collection in November 2021. (Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech)
Image 2 of 3

These close-up photos show the drill marks mark on a layered Mars rock under study by NASA's Perseverance rover for possible sample collection in November 2021.

These close-up photos show the drill marks mark on a layered Mars rock under study by NASA's Perseverance rover for possible sample collection in November 2021. (Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech)
Image 3 of 3

These close-up photos show the drill marks mark on a layered Mars rock under study by NASA's Perseverance rover for possible sample collection in November 2021.

These close-up photos show the drill marks mark on a layered Mars rock under study by NASA's Perseverance rover for possible sample collection in November 2021. (Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech)
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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

Elizabeth Howell is a contributing writer for Space.com who is one of the few Canadian journalists to report regularly on space exploration. She is the author or co-author of several books on space exploration. Elizabeth holds a Ph.D. from the University of North Dakota in Space Studies, and an M.Sc. from the same department. She also holds a bachelor of journalism degree from Carleton University in Canada, where she began her space-writing career in 2004. Besides writing, Elizabeth teaches communications at the university and community college level, and for government training schools. To see her latest projects, follow Elizabeth on Twitter at @howellspace.