Sustainability Environment

NASA’s Mars rover scores ‘phenomenal accomplishment’

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 The drill hole from Perseverance’s second sample-collection attempt can be seen, in this composite of two images taken on Sept. 1, by one of the rover’s navigation cameras. NASA/JPL-Caltech

Story at a glance

  • NASA’s Mars rover successfully gathered and maintained samples from the core of a Martian rock.
  • Sedimentary samples could provide details about Mars’ geography and climate history.

The NASA rover exploring Mars submitted new data on Wednesday, capturing its first successful attempt in coring a Mars rock sample.

Previous attempts at sampling Martian rocks failed to harvest as a result of the sample breaking. This time, officials are confident that the Perseverance rover captured sediment fragments based on photos from inside the collection tube.

Samples are collected with a rotary-percussive drill that runs a 7-foot robotic arm which extracts samples and collects them in a tube slightly thicker than a pencil.

The rock that Perseverance drilled into was roughly the size of a briefcase and was part of a ridgeline more than half a mile long and full of boulders and rock outcrops, or rock formations visible on the surface.

Initial images revealed that Perseverance’s drill successfully collected and retained samples of the rock core. 

“The project got its first cored rock under its belt, and that’s a phenomenal accomplishment,” said Jennifer Trosper, the project manager at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Southern California. “The team determined a location, and selected and cored a viable and scientifically valuable rock. We did what we came to do. We will work through this small hiccup with the lighting conditions in the images and remain encouraged that there is sample in this tube.”

Rock samples from Mars stand to provide insight into the microbial life on the planet and reveal more about its climate and geological history. 

Previous information gathered by NASA’s Mars missions found new information about the core of the planet based on seismic data, revealing more about Mars’s crust, mantel and core.