On September 1, NASA’s Perseverance rover made its second attempt to obtain a rock sample from the martian surface. Images taken by Perseverance’s navigation camera at the sample collection site in Jezero Crater confirmed that a martian rock had been successfully cored. The target rock, nicknamed Rochette, has been described as briefcase-sized and is part of a geologic unit containing rock outcrops and boulders that may be some of the most ancient exposed bedrock within the crater.
Perseverance’s Sampling and Caching System is capable of drilling into rocks, collecting samples about as thick as a pencil, and storing the samples in airtight tubes made of titanium. The initial images released by NASA looked promising, showing part of the sample visible inside the collection tube. However, given the first unsuccessful attempt to collect a sample on August 5, the Perseverance mission team decided that additional images were needed to confirm that the rock core was securely inside the sample tube and not simply perched at the opening. As of September 6, images collected by Perseverance’s Sampling and Caching System Camera confirmed that the rock core was safely housed inside the tube prior to sealing the tube for storage.
Coordinated efforts between NASA and the European Space Agency include plans for future missions to return up to 43 samples collected by Perseverance back to Earth. These samples will be the first to be identified, collected, and returned to Earth from another planet. This is a historic event, and such samples will play a critical role in helping scientists characterize the geology and climate of Mars and explore the potential for microbial life on other planets. READ MORE