NASA confirms Perseverance Mars rover got its first piece of rock
WASHINGTON, Sept 7, 2021 (BSS/AFP) - NASA confirmed Monday that its
Perseverance Mars rover succeeded in collecting its first rock sample for
scientists to pore over when a future mission eventually brings it back to
"I've got it!" the space agency tweeted, alongside a photograph of a rock
core slightly thicker than a pencil inside a sample tube.
The sample was collected on September 1, but NASA was initially unsure
whether the rover had successfully held onto its precious cargo, because
initial images taken in poor light were unclear.
After taking a new photo so mission control could verify its contents,
Perseverance transferred the tube to the rover's interior for further
measurements and imaging, then hermetically sealed the container.
"This is a momentous achievement and I can't wait to see the incredible
discoveries produced by Perseverance and our team," NASA administrator Bill
Nelson said in a statement.
Thomas Zurbuchen, associate administrator for science, likened the
achievement to the first samples of rock taken from the Moon, which are still
invaluable to researchers today.
Perseverance's sampling and caching system is the most complex mechanism
ever sent to space, with over 3,000 parts.
Its first target was a briefcase-sized rock nicknamed "Rochette" from a
ridgeline that is particularly interesting from a geological perspective as
it contains ancient layers of exposed bedrock.
Perseverance uses a drill and a hollow coring bit at the end of its 7-
foot-long (2-meter-long) robotic arm to extract samples.
After coring the rock, the rover vibrated the drill bit and tube for one
second, five separate times.
This procedure is called "percuss to ingest" and is meant to clear the lip
of the tube of residual material, and cause the sample to slide down the
Perseverance landed on an ancient lake bed called the Jezero Crater in
February, on a mission to search for signs of ancient microbial life using a
suite of sophisticated instruments mounted on its turret.
It is also trying to better characterize the Red Planet's geology and past
The first part of the rover's science mission, which will last hundreds of
sols or Martian days, will be complete when it returns to its landing site.
By then, it will have traveled somewhere between 1.6 and 3.1 miles (2.5
and five kilometers) and may have filled up to eight of its 43 sample tubes.
It will then travel to Jezero Crater's delta region, which might be rich
in clay minerals. On Earth, such minerals can preserve fossilized signs of
ancient microscopic life. Eventually NASA wants to send back the samples
taken by the rover in a joint mission with the European Space Agency,
sometime in the 2030s.
Its first attempt at taking a sample in August failed after the rock was
too crumbly to withstand the robot's drill.