For the Martian rover Perseverance, the second time is charm.
After the disappointing first attempt in early August, resulting in an empty test tube, NASA confirmed on Monday that Perseverance successfully collected and stored its first sample of the Martian rock by exploring Artuby. The half-mile (900-meter) long reef is close to the area believed to hold the deepest and oldest layers of exposed Rock Crater Lake.
The process of obtaining a rock sample, which is slightly thicker than a pencil, began last Wednesday. That day, Perseverance used a rotary-impact drill at the end of his robotic arm to core into a flat Martian rock, dubbed “Rochette” by NASA, which had the shape of a briefcase.
After it finished curing, Perseverance took a photo of the contents of its unsealed sample tube – number 266, in case you were wondering – so that NASA could confirm that it had collected the stone. Mission controllers confirmed that it was indeed a Martian rock and sent instructions to the rover to complete sample processing.
These included measuring and recording the rock core, hermetically sealing the pipe, taking another photograph of the sealed pipe, and finally storing the pipe.
Persistence project scientist Ken Farley said ua Media Release that obtaining the first sample of the Martian rock is a great turning point.
“When we bring these samples back to Earth, they will tell us a lot about some of the earliest chapters in the evolution of Mars,” Farley said. “But as geologically intriguing as the contents of the 266 sample tube may be, they won’t tell the whole story of this place. There are many more craters left Lake to explore, and we will continue our journey in the months and years ahead. ”
This is just the first thing NASA hopes is that many samples of Martian rocks have been collected by persistence. Rover took more than 30 test tubes to Mars and could fill as many as eight during this first part of its mission, which will last for hundreds of Martian days. NASA is working with the European Space Agency on future missions to bring samples of Perseverance back to Earth for further study.
If two space agencies do that, the samples would be the first samples brought to our planet from the other.
After Perseverance completes the first part of its mission, it will travel to the Lake Crater Delta, which encompasses the remains of a fan-shaped spot where the ancient river met the lake within the crater. NASA believes it is possible that the region could be rich in clay minerals. Based on what we know from Earth, these minerals can preserve fossilized signs of microscopic life.
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