NASA’s Mars Perseverance Rover Sample Tubes

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Mars 2020 Sample Tube CT Scanner

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This animation reveals the information gathered on a Mars 2020 sample tube utilizing an electronic tomography (CT) scanner. Engineers dealing with the sample tubes utilized the 3D images to much better comprehend televisions’ internal structure. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

Marvels of engineering, the rover’s sample tubes should be difficult adequate to securely bring Red Planet samples on the long journey back to Earth in spotless condition.

The tubes brought in the stomach of NASA’s Mars 2020 Perseverance rover are predestined to bring the very first samples in history from another world back to Earth. Future researchers will utilize these thoroughly chosen agents of Martian rock and regolith (damaged rock and dust) to search for proof of prospective microbial life present in Mars’ ancient past and to respond to other essential concerns about Mars and its history. Perseverance will land at Mars’ Jezero Crater on Feb. 18, 2021.

About the shapes and size of a basic laboratory test tube, the 43 sample tubes headed to Mars should be light-weight and sturdy adequate to make it through the needs of the big salami, therefore tidy that future researchers will be positive that what they’re evaluating is 100% Mars.


One essential activity for NASA’s Perseverance Mars rover, which is on its method to the Red Planet, will be to gather samples of Martian rock and regolith (damaged rock and dust) for future go back to Earth. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

“Compared to Mars, Earth is filled with evidence of the life that covers our planet,” stated Ken Farley, the Mars 2020 job researcher at Caltech in Pasadena. “We needed to remove those signs so thoroughly that any scant evidence remaining can be confidently detected and differentiated when these first samples are returned.”

The practice of engineering containers to transport samples from other worlds returns to Apollo 11. When Neil Armstrong, Michael Collins, and Buzz Aldrin went back to Earth with 47.7 pounds (21.8 kgs) of samples from the Moon’s Sea of Tranquility in 1969, they brought them in 2 triple-sealed, briefcase-size aluminum boxes. But Apollo’s rock boxes required to keep their freight beautiful just for about 10 days – from the lunar surface area to splashdown – prior to being blended off to the Lunar Receiving Laboratory. Perseverance’s sample tubes should separate and maintain the clinical worth of their contents for well over 10 years.

Sample Tube Exterior

Illustration reveals element functions on the outside of a sample tube being brought aboard the Mars 2020 Perseverance rover. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

Mars Sample Return  

As NASA’s latest rover examines Jezero Crater, objective researchers will identify when and where it will drill for samples. This valuable Martian freight will be packaged in those tubes with the most elaborate and technically advanced system ever sent out into area: the Sample Caching System. After the samples have actually been transferred on the Martian surface area, 2 other objectives being created by NASA in collaboration with ESA (the European Space Agency) will finish the relay to get them back to Earth.

Sample Tube Interior

Illustration reveals element functions on the interior of a sample tube being brought aboard the Mars 2020 Perseverance rover. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

The 2nd objective in this sample return project will send out a “fetch” rover to obtain the hermetically-sealed tubes and provide them to an unique sample return container inside the Mars Ascent Vehicle. The Mars 2020 Perseverance rover might likewise provide tubes with samples to the area of the Mars Ascent Vehicle if it stays healthy well into a prolonged objective. The Mars Ascent Vehicle will then release televisions into orbit.

The last objective will fly an orbiter to Mars to rendezvous with the encapsulated samples, catch them in an extremely safe containment pill, and ferryboat them back to Earth (as early as 2031).

Tray Holding 39 Sample Tubes

A tray holding 39 sample tubes – each safeguarded in a gold-colored sheath – is set up in NASA’s Perseverance rover in this photo taken at the company’s Kennedy Space Center on May 21, 2020. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/KSC

Robust Containers

Made primarily of titanium, each sample tube weighs less than 2 ounces (57 grams). A white outside covering defend against heating by the Sun possibly altering the chemical structure of the samples after Perseverance transfers televisions on the surface area of Mars. Laser-engraved identification numbers on the outside will assist the group recognize televisions and their contents.

Each tube should fit within the tight tolerances not just of Perseverance’s Sample Caching System, however those of the future objectives.

“They are less than 6 inches [15.2 centimeters] long, however we still discovered over 60 various measurements to inspect,” stated Sample Tube Cognizant Engineer Pavlina Karafillis of JPL. “Because of the intricacies of all the complex mechanisms they will pass through during the Mars Sample Return campaign, if any measurement was off by about the thickness of a human hair, the tube was deemed not suitable for flight.”

Neil Armstrong Apollo Lunar Sample Return Container

Apollo 11 leader Neil Armstrong deals with an Apollo Lunar Sample Return Container throughout a lunar surface area simulation training workout in Building 9, Manned Spacecraft Center in Houston, Texas. Credit: NASA

100% Pure Jezero

Precision engineering is just part of the difficulty. The tubes are likewise the item of severe tidiness requirements. All of NASA’s planetary objectives include exacting procedures to avoid the intro of Earthly natural, inorganic, and biological product. But considering that these tubes might hold evidence that life as soon as existed somewhere else in deep space, the Mars 2020 group required to decrease – even further – the possibility that they might host Earthly artifacts that might make complex the clinical procedure. The required was basically that absolutely nothing ought to remain in a tube up until the Sample Caching System starts filling it with 9 cubic inches (147 cubic centimeters) of Jezero Crater (about the size of a piece of chalk).

“And when they said ‘nothing,’ they meant it,” stated Ian Clark, the objective’s assistant job systems engineer for sample tube tidiness at JPL. “An example: To achieve the kind of science the mission is going after, we needed to limit the total amount of Earth-based organic compounds in a given sample to less than 150 nanograms. For a set of particular organic compounds – ones that are very indicative of life – we were limited to less than 15 nanograms in a sample.”

A nanogram is a billionth of a gram. An typical thumbprint brings about 45,000 nanograms of organics – about 300 times the overall allowed a sample tube. To fulfill such strict objective requirements, the group needed to reword the book on cleansing.

“We did all our assembly in a hyper-clean-room environment, which is essentially a clean room inside a clean room,” stated Clark. “Between assembly steps, the sample tubes would be cleaned with filtered air blasts, rinsed with deionized water, and sonically cleaned with acetone, isopropyl alcohol, and other exotic cleaning agents.”

Sample Tube 241

A specialist dealing with the Mars 2020 objective takes a sample from the surface area of sample tube 241 – to evaluate for contamination. The image was taken in a tidy space center at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, where televisions were established and put together. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

After each cleansing, the group would determine impurities and bake televisions for excellent step. By the time the 43 sample tubes were chosen from a field of 93 produced for flight, each had actually produced over 250 pages of paperwork and 3 gigabytes of images and videos.

Of televisions aboard Perseverance, approximately 38 are predestined to be filled with Martian rock and regolith. The other 5 are “witness tubes” that have actually been filled with products tailored to catch molecular and particle impurities. They’ll be opened one at a time on Mars to witness the ambient environment mainly near sample collection websites, cataloging any Earthly pollutants or impurities from the spacecraft that might exist throughout sample collection.

The the sample and witness tubes’ ultimate go back to and evaluation on Earth will permit the complete breadth of terrestrial science lab abilities to examine the samples, utilizing instruments too big and complicated to send out to Mars.

More About the Mission

An essential goal of Perseverance’s objective on Mars is astrobiology, consisting of the look for indications of ancient microbial life. The rover will identify the world’s geology and previous environment, lead the way for human expedition of the Red Planet, and be the very first objective to gather and cache Martian rock and regolith (damaged rock and dust).

Subsequent objectives, presently under factor to consider by NASA in cooperation with ESA (European Space Agency), would send out spacecraft to Mars to gather these cached samples from the surface area and return them to Earth for extensive analysis.

The Mars 2020 objective becomes part of a bigger program that consists of objectives to the Moon as a method to get ready for human expedition of the Red Planet. Charged with returning astronauts to the Moon by 2024, NASA will develop a continual human existence on and around the Moon by 2028 through NASA’s Artemis lunar expedition strategies.

JPL, which is handled for NASA by Caltech in Pasadena, California, developed and handles operations of the Perseverance rover.