NASA’s Mars Rover Recovers ‘Perfect’ Rock Sample To Send Back To Earth
NASA has confirmed the Mars Perseverance rover has successfully retrieved its first rock sample from the red planet.
The rover blasted off from Earth in July 2020 and touched down in Mars’ Jezero Crater the following February, after which it travelled more than two kilometres to a slightly raised ridge that has been nicknamed ‘the Citadelle’.
Following its arrival at the ridge, the team of scientists responsible for Perseverance selected a thick slab, named Rochette, as the target for the drilling attempt that took place on September 1.
The effort marked the second rock collection attempt for Perseverance after it previously tried to collect a sample on August 5, when the chosen rock turned out to be too soft and ended up crumbling to pieces.
Though scientists were initially anxious the sample collected in the more recent attempt may have been dropped, images of the drill head show the rock safely inside the rover’s mechanism, marking a history-making moment with the first ever rock sample collected on another planet intended for return to Earth, BBC News reports.
A post shared on the official Twitter account for Perseverance reads: ‘I’ve got it! With better lighting down the sample tube, you can see the rock core I collected is still in there. Up next, I’ll process this sample and seal the tube.’
Commenting on the success of the drilling mission, Perseverance project manager Jennifer Trosper, of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, said: ‘The project got its first cored rock under its belt, and that’s a phenomenal accomplishment. The team determined a location, and selected and cored a viable and scientifically valuable rock. We did what we came to do.’
Scientists selected Rochette as an appropriate rock for sampling following an assessment, which involved Perseverance scraping away the top one centimetre of the rock to allow researchers to get a look at what lay beneath.
After Rochette passed all of the scientists’ required tests, Perseverance set about boring into the slab with the drill located at the end of its seven-foot-long robotic arm.
With the first rock sample now safely collected, Perseverance will move on to gathering more samples, with the goal of collecting two dozen over the course of the next year or so. The collection is ultimately set to be brought home in the next few years in a joint effort by US and European space agencies.
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