mars perseverance rover touchdown

Nasa’s Perseverance rover collects its first Mars rock sample

Image credit: nasa

Nasa’s Perseverance rover has collected its first sample of Martian rock from the planet’s surface, the space agency has confirmed.

The rover dug out a core slightly thicker than a pencil from Mars' Jezero Crater. The sample is now enclosed in an airtight titanium sample tube, making it available for retrieval in the future.

Perseverance used the rotary-percussive drill at the end of its robotic arm to retrieve the core sample from a flat, briefcase-size Mars rock nicknamed 'Rochette'.

After completing the coring process, the arm moved the corer, bit and sample tube so that the rover’s camera could image the contents of the still-unsealed tube and transmit the results back to Earth.

After mission controllers confirmed the cored rock’s presence in the tube, they sent a command to complete processing of the sample after which the container was hermetically sealed.

perseverance rock sample

Image credit: nasa

The sample (pictured above) is not expected to be returned to Earth for some time as Nasa and the European Space Agency (ESA) are still in the planning stages for a series of future missions to return the rover’s sample tubes to Earth for closer study.

These samples would be the first set of scientifically identified and selected materials returned to our planet from another. 

“Nasa has a history of setting ambitious goals and then accomplishing them, reflecting our nation’s commitment to discovery and innovation,” said Nasa Administrator Bill Nelson. “This is a momentous achievement and I can’t wait to see the incredible discoveries produced by Perseverance and our team.”

Along with identifying and collecting samples of rock and regolith while searching for signs of ancient microscopic life, Perseverance’s mission includes studying the Jezero region to understand the geology and ancient habitability of the area, as well as develop an understanding of what its climate used to be like.

“For all of Nasa science, this is truly a historic moment,” said Thomas Zurbuchen, associate administrator for science at Nasa Headquarters in Washington.

“Just as the Apollo Moon missions demonstrated the enduring scientific value of returning samples from other worlds for analysis here on our planet, we will be doing the same with the samples Perseverance collects as part of our Mars Sample Return program.

“Using the most sophisticated science instruments on Earth, we expect jaw-dropping discoveries across a broad set of science areas, including exploration into the question of whether life once existed on Mars.”

Perseverance first landed on Mars in February after a gruelling seven-month, 293-million-mile, journey from Earth.

It will spend the coming years scouring for signs of ancient microbial life in a mission that will bring back samples to Earth and prepare the way for future human visitors.

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