PIA26206: PIXL Instrument on NASA's Perseverance Studies 'Ouzel Falls'
 Target Name:  Mars
 Is a satellite of:  Sol (our sun)
 Mission:  Mars 2020 Rover
 Spacecraft:  Perseverance
 Instrument:  Planetary Instrument for X-ray Lithochemistry (PIXL) 
 Product Size:  1252 x 1069 pixels (w x h)
 Produced By:  Malin Space Science Systems
 Full-Res TIFF:  PIA26206.tif (4.017 MB)
 Full-Res JPEG:  PIA26206.jpg (319.7 kB)

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Figure A

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Figure B

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Before collecting a rock sample at a spot nicknamed "Otis Peak," NASA's Perseverance Mars rover employed an abrasion tool to wear down the rock surface and then used the Planetary Instrument for X-ray Lithochemistry, or PIXL, to study the rock's internal chemistry. This image of the abrasion patch, dubbed "Ouzel Falls," was taken in May 2023 by WATSON (Wide Angle Topographic Sensor for Operations and eNgineering), a camera that is part of an instrument called Scanning Habitable Environments with Raman & Luminescence for Organics & Chemicals, or SHERLOC, on the end of the rover's robotic arm. Data from PIXL is laid over the image.

Colored squares show different areas where PIXL's X-ray beam scanned the rock's surface. The instrument's data found the rock was rich in phosphate, a material found in the DNA and cell membranes of all known life, and which also serves as a way to store and transfer energy within living things.

Figure A shows the image of Ouzel Falls with a list of materials identified within it, including large, millimeter-scale regions rich in phosphate.

Figure B, taken by one of Perseverance's navigation cameras, shows two drill holes made when the rover captured the Otis Peak sample. The hole at upper left was Perseverance's first attempt, where not enough sample was collected. The hole at lower right is the second, successful attempt, which was made in the same location as the Ouzel Falls abrasion patch.

The Ouzel Falls scan areas contain a rich diversity of other mineral grains, including igneous minerals transported as sand and pebbles, such as olivine and spinel, and minerals crystallized from water, such as carbonates, clays, and sulfates. Each of these record unique aspects of the magmatic, climatic, and paleoenvironmental history of the ancient lake within Jezero Crater and the surrounding region. This diversity will make the Otis Peak sample a treasure trove for scientists on Earth who may study it in the future.

WATSON was built by Malin Space Science Systems (MSSS) in San Diego and is operated jointly by MSSS and NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory.

A key objective for Perseverance's mission on Mars is astrobiology, including the search for signs of ancient microbial life. The rover will characterize the planet's geology and past climate, pave the way for human exploration of the Red Planet, and be the first mission to collect and cache Martian rock and regolith (broken rock and dust).

Subsequent NASA missions, in cooperation with ESA (European Space Agency), would send spacecraft to Mars to collect these sealed samples from the surface and return them to Earth for in-depth analysis.

The Mars 2020 Perseverance mission is part of NASA's Moon to Mars exploration approach, which includes Artemis missions to the Moon that will help prepare for human exploration of the Red Planet.

JPL, which is managed for NASA by Caltech in Pasadena, California, built and manages operations of the Perseverance rover.

For more about Perseverance: mars.nasa.gov/mars2020/

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