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NASA’s Mars rover on a roll as it collects second rock sample in a week

NASA’s Perseverance rover has extracted and securely stored its second sample of martian rock just days after its first successful collection.

The space agency’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL), which is overseeing the Mars mission, shared the news in a tweet on Wednesday, September 8.

“Two for two: I have successfully processed and stored my second sample of Mars, thus bringing my total to two Martian rock cores in one week,”  reads a post on the Perseverance Twitter page that also features images showing the drilled rock and collection tube with the material inside.

Two for two: I have successfully processed and stored my second sample of Mars, thus bringing my total to two Martian rock cores in one week.

More images:

Tune in to watch my team share more this Friday:

— NASA's Perseverance Mars Rover (@NASAPersevere) September 8, 2021

The achievement suggests JPL has finally nailed the rover’s sample-collection process following a failed effort in August when the loose consistency of the gathered material caused it to slip out of the collection tube.

Afterwards, the JPL team directed Perseverance to another rock with a more stable structure. Both stored samples have come from this rock, with the rover drilling out pieces about the size of a pencil before storing them in titanium tubes.

Perseverance will continue to drill material from different rocks during its exploration of Jezero Crater, a dried-up lake bed. While the rover will use its suite of onboard instruments to examine the samples, a later mission will aim to transport the haul to Earth so scientists can use more powerful analytical tools to hopefully discover more about the red planet and its history.

“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,” said Thomas Zurbuchen, NASA’s associate administrator for science.

Perseverance reached Mars in February 2021 and since then has been exploring the surface of the planet, sending back fresh imagery — and audio — as well as preparing for its sample collections.

Unlike NASA’s previous rover missions, Perseverance brought with it a traveling companion in the form of a drone-like flying machine called Ingenuity, which in April became the first aircraft to perform powered, controlled flight on another planet.

Ingenuity was sent as a test device to see if such a machine could help future rovers plan their routes more efficiently and safely. But the aircraft’s numerous test flights have been going so well that Ingenuity itself has been able to help Perseverance find its way around the surface of Mars.

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Trevor Mogg
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