Perseverance landed on the Red Planet in February 2021 in the Jezero crater, Mars, which is thought to have been a lake full of water.
The NASA robot has cruised about 1 km (3,000 feet) south from where it landed dramatically five months ago. Now stop at a location dubbed “Paver Stones” or “Fractured Rough”.
Scientists want to know whether this Paver Stone came from sediment or volcanic origin. Both are interesting, but the special quality of volcanic rocks is that they can be dated with extremely high precision and accuracy in the laboratory, said chief scientist Ken Farley.
To retrieve the rock, first Perseverance will scrape the surface of the selected piece of Paver Stone, to remove the dust covering it and then inspect the site with its powerful instrument.
Perseverances will keep about 40 of these small sample tubes during its mission. Later projects from NASA and the European Space Agency (ESA) will arrive on Mars to pick up the rock and bring it back to Earth.
Prof Farley said he expected the four unique samples to be deposited in the area of the crater that is now under investigation. This includes an interesting rock outcrop, called Artuby. It is about 600m away and appears to contain several layers of very fine sediment, potentially deposited by the delta system of lakes and rivers that once occupied Jezero.