NASA has tweeted images of the first sample of martian rock collected by its Perseverance rover.
The team at the space agency’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL), which is overseeing the mission, posted images of the gathered particles on Monday, September 6. The sample, along with others expected to be collected by the rover in the coming months, will be brought to Earth by another mission taking place some time in the 2030s.
“It’s official: I’ve now captured, sealed, and stored the first core sample ever drilled on another planet, in a quest to return samples to Earth,” JPL said on Perseverance’s Twitter account, adding that “it’s the first in a one-of-a-kind martian rock collection.”
It’s official: I’ve now captured, sealed, and stored the first core sample ever drilled on another planet, in a quest to return samples to Earth. It’s the first in a one-of-a-kind Martian rock collection. #SamplingMars
Read more: https://t.co/bs4Hd4Fzyw pic.twitter.com/2jwF7cOcMZ
— NASA's Perseverance Mars Rover (@NASAPersevere) September 6, 2021
NASA chief Bill Nelson described the successful collection effort as “a momentous achievement,” while Thomas Zurbuchen, NASA’s associate administrator for science, said it was “truly a historic moment.”
Zurbuchen added: “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.”
The successful collection by Perseverance followed a failed effort last month when the drilled rock particles slipped from the collection tube as they were too powdery to stay lodged inside.
After that, JPL sent the rover in search of a new rock with a more stable structure that would increase the chances of obtaining a sample.
Perseverance performed the extraction process last week but JPL needed to make additional checks to confirm that the collected material was well and truly sealed inside the tube. The sample is described as “slightly thicker than a pencil” and is now safely enclosed in an airtight titanium sample tube.
Perseverance landed in Mars’ Jezero Crater in February following a six-month journey from Earth. Astonishing footage shows the rover touching down on the Martian surface at the start of its mission. It also brought with it Ingenuity, a small drone-like device that’s set a record of its own, becoming the first aircraft to achieve controlled, powered flight on another planet.
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