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NASA Mars rover snags rock sample loaded with greenish mineral

"Hypotheses are flying!" as scientists work out how the olivine got there.

percyolivinesample
On Nov. 15, 2021, NASA's Perseverance rover checked out an olivine-loaded rock sample it collected on Mars.
NASA/JPL-Caltech/ASU

This story is part of Welcome to Mars, our series exploring the red planet.

NASA's Perseverance rover is expanding its Mars rock collection.

The rover has successfully gathered up another sample, and the rock has triggered some scientific speculation. "Another little piece of Mars to carry with me," the rover's Twitter account tweeted Tuesday. "My latest sample is from a rock loaded with the greenish mineral olivine, and there are several ideas among my science team about how it got there."

The rover's Twitter account went on to say, "Hypotheses are flying!" and added, "Science rules." If you're familiar with the green gemstone peridot, then you've seen examples of how olivine can appear on Earth. It's a common mineral in our planet's upper mantle.

The Perseverance rover is gathering up small chunks of Mars and placing them in sample tubes for safekeeping. It's possible scientists on Earth could get their hands on the olivine-loaded rock in the future. NASA is developing a mission to go fetch the rover's samples and bring them back to Earth for study in the early 2030s.

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Olivine has been found in some interesting space places. NASA's Dawn mission unexpectedly spotted the mineral in craters on the giant asteroid Vesta. The Curiosity rover, which is off exploring another region of Mars, found a "fingerprint" of olivine in a Martian soil sample.

The Perseverance rover first spent some time investigating the layered rock it sampled by abrading the surface and examining what was beneath. Perseverance has a finite number of sample tubes on board, so the team is picking out interesting candidates for collection.

NASA didn't elaborate on the olivine hypotheses that are flying around, but we can expect plenty of analysis down the line as researchers dive into the data. The Jezero Crater is slowly revealing its geologic history under Percy's watchful eye.