According to a NASA Twitter post, NASA’s Perseverance rover successfully completed its first sample-taking operation 190 days into its mission on Mars.
On September 1, NASA announced that data from Perseverance had arrived via its Deep Space Network (DSN), indicating that the machine had successfully completed the sample-taking operation of drilling into a rock on Mars’ surface and retrieving a thin core of rock sample.
However, similar to NASA’s recent historic Ingenuity helicopter flight on Mars, the Perseverance team desired photographic confirmation that their data was, in fact, correct.
New images show the rock core in the sample tube of the Perseverance rover. NASA announced on September 3 via a first-person Mars Perseverance tweet that there was a sample in the tube after coring, but images taken after an arm move were inconclusive due to poor lighting at the time.
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. #SamplingMars
NASA’s Perseverance Mars Rover (@NASAPersevere) September 5, 2021
NASA announced on September 5 that it had re-taken the images, and that better lighting conditions had allowed them to confirm that the rock sample was still housed in the tube. “I’ve got it!” exclaimed the NASA Perseverance Twitter account. NASA then claims that it will process the sample before sealing the tube.
The landing site for the Perseverance rover on Mars’ Jezero Crater was chosen because it is thought to have once been flooded with water, suggesting that it may hold clues to the existence of ancient life on the red planet. Perseverance’s rock sample, taken with the help of a 6-foot-long (182 cm) robotic arm, is the first of up to 43 that will be sealed within the machine, ready for eventual return to Earth.
NASA and the European Space Agency (ESA) intend to have the rover leave rock samples for retrieval at specific locations on Mars. A yet-to-be-built Mars lander and sample collection robot will land on the planet’s surface in 2026, collect samples, and return them to Earth. Scientists expect the samples to arrive on Earth in 2030, at which point they will be able to analyze the composition of the various Martian rock samples.
NASA’s Mars Perseverance rover is ushering in a new era of Mars-related discovery and innovation, as well as Mars-bound technologies. Aside from the machine’s rock samples and the previously mentioned Ingenuity helicopter flight, the Perseverance mission also accomplished a historic first by extracting breathable oxygen on Mars using an experimental instrument called MOXIE. All of these advancements are incremental steps toward plans for human exploration of Mars in the 2030s.