NASA confirmed last Monday (6) that the robot Perseverance managed to collect its first rock sample on Mars.
“We did it!” tweeted the American space agency at dawn on Monday, along with a photograph of a rock core slightly thicker than a pencil inside a test tube.
His first attempt, on Aug. 5, failed because the rock was too brittle to support the robot’s drill. Data received in the last hour of September 1 indicated that the second attempt was successful.
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On the 2nd, NASA had reported that the images taken after the rover’s arm completed the sample collection were inconclusive due to poor sunlight conditions.
“With better lighting in the sample tube, you can see that the collected rock core is there,” NASA noted on Twitter, adding that the next step will be to seal the tube and store it.
“This is a momentous achievement and I look forward to seeing the incredible discoveries of Perseverance and our team,” said NASA Administrator Bill Nelson. Thomas Zurbuchen, Associate Science Administrator, compared the achievement to the first rock samples taken from the Moon.
The target was a paste-sized rock dubbed “Rochette” with a crest 900 meters long.
“The team determined a location, selected and sampled a viable and scientifically valuable rock,” explained Jennifer Trosper, project manager at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena last week.
NASA’s last Mars scout vehicle, Perseverance landed in Jezero Crater on the Red Planet in February as part of a mission to search for signs of ancient microbial life.
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Its tower-mounted scientific instruments are capable of determining chemical and mineral composition and searching for organic matter, as well as better characterizing the planet’s geological processes.
The rover uses a drill and a socket at the end of its 2 meter long robotic arm to extract samples slightly thicker than a pencil, which are then stored.
NASA plans a mission to bring about 30 samples to Earth in the 2030s. Scientists could then conduct more detailed analyzes to confirm whether microbial life existed on Mars.