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Mars rover Perseverance collected first rock sample

Image: Intact rock core in sample tube (NASA/JPL-Caltech)

Edinburgh, 17 September 2021. – NASA’s Perseverance Mars rover has collected the first sample of Martian rock, a core from Jezero Crater slightly thicker than a pencil, NASA reported.

The core is currently awaiting retrieval in an airtight titanium sample tube with serial number 266. The rover had failed to collect samples on its first try just last month.

The sample-taking process began with the rotary-percussive drill coring into a flat, 70-centimetre-long rock nicknamed “Rochette.” After the coring process, the rover’s Mastcam-Z camera was used to image the unsealed tube and transmit the data back to Earth. After mission control confirmed the sample’s presence in the tube, they sent a command for it to complete the process.

Early investigations suggest that the rock is basalt which might have been part of an ancient lava flow, said Kenneth Farley, the mission’s project scientist. Rochette has small cavities filled with salts, that suggests it interacted with water in the past. The goal is to gather around 35 samples altogether from different regions of the Jezero Crater.

NASA and ESA are planning a series of missions to return the rover’s sample tubes to Earth through the Mars Sample Return campaign. These would be the first set of scientifically identified and selected samples returned from another planet. The samples will not arrive back to Earth before 2031.

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