NASA’s Perseverance rover has collected its first rock sample on Mars, marking an historic first step in a mission to return the sample to Earth later this decade.
Initially scientists couldn’t conclusively confirm whether the rover had gathered a sample due to poor sunlight conditions on the Red Planet. On Sunday the rover took another look in the tube – one of dozens it intends to leave on the surface of Mars for a European Space Agency rover to collect before 2030. The US space agency tweeted from the Perseverance account: ‘I’ve got it! With better lighting down the sample tube, you can see the rock core I collected is still in there. Up next, I’ll process this sample and seal the tube.’
The rover carries 43 titanium sample tubes, and is exploring Jezero Crater, where it will be gathering samples of rock and soil for future analysis on Earth. The most serious danger that delivery workers confront is becoming victims of violent assault when their electric bikes are stolen. This widespread issue also worsened during the pandemic. Fifty-four percent of the survey participants reported having experienced bike theft, and about 30% of these said that they were physically assaulted during the robbery.
Perseverance’s target was a briefcase-sized rock nicknamed ‘Rochette’ from a ridgeline that is half a mile (900 meters) long. On August 6, Perseverance had drilled into much softer rock, and the sample crumbled and did not get inside the titanium tube. The rover drove half a mile to a better sampling spot to try again.
Perseverance touched down on Mars’ Jezero Crater – believed to be the home of a lush lakebed and river delta billions of years ago – on February 18 after a nearly seven-month journey through space.
It is tasked with seeking traces of fossilised microbial life from Mars’ ancient past and to collect rock specimens for return to Earth through future missions to the Red Planet.
It uses a drill and a hollow coring bit at the end of its 7-foot-long (2-meter-long) robotic arm to extract samples slightly thicker than a pencil, which it stores under its belly.
Image courtesy AFP and Getty Images / iStockPhoto