Rock in Sample Tube - Image c/o NASA
In early August, the Perseverance Rover attempted to take a sample of Martian rock - and, regrettably, came up with an empty test tube. But, apparently second time's the charm; NASA confirmed on Monday that Perseverance had successfully collected and stored its first sample of Martian rock while exploring Artuby.
Artuby is a half-mile ridgeline that is near an area believed to hold Jezero Crater's deepest and most ancient layers of exposed bedrock. The process for obtaining the rock sample - which is just a little thicker than a standard pencil - began last week when the rover used the rotary-percussive drill at the end of its robotic arm to core into a flat Martian rock. NASA nicknamed this briefcase-shaped rock "Rochette."
Once it was finished coring, Perseverance took photographs of its unsealed sample tube so that NASA could confirm that the rock was collected. Mission controllers confirmed and then sent the rover instructions to finish processing the sample. The sample is now sealed inside a titanium container tube.
This shows the hole drilled by the Perseverance rover during the second sample collection attempt - Image c/o NASA
NASA's associate administrator for science at their headquarters, Thomas Zurbuchen, said in a press release that “For all of NASA science, this is truly a historic moment. 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.”
This is only the first of what NASA hopes are many samples for Perseverance. The rover has taken more than 30 sample tubes and could fill as many as 8 during this part of its mission, which will last for hundreds of Martian days. NASA is currently working with the European Space Agency to establish further missions that will bring back Perseverance's test samples for more study.
If the agencies can make this happen, this will be the first samples every brought to our planet from another one. How absolutely wild is that?
Have you been watching Perseverance's mission and if so, what has been the most exciting part for you so far? Share with me!