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The NASA Perseverance Rover Collects First Rock Sample of Mars

NASA’s Perseverance rover, which is now rolling across a dried-out lakebed on Mars’ surface, has completed the first, crucial stage in a decade-long mission to return fragments of the Red Planet to Earth. On the 190th day of its mission, the rover “Percy,” as it is popularly called, overcame earlier sample issues and plucked a core of rock from Mars’ surface, a little thicker than a pencil. On September 1, NASA revealed that data from the Mars rover had arrived, indicating that it had successfully extracted a core from the briefcase-sized rock known as “Rochette.”

However, being the meticulous scientists they are, the team wanted to be “extra positive” that this was the case. To be sure, the rover would need to use one of its cameras to snap a few photos of the drilling equipment and a few more of the rock sample it had dug. However, the initial photographs returned to Earth appeared to demonstrate that the rock had been taken successfully. The second series of photos was taken after an operation to vibrate the drill bit.

The sun, on the other hand, was not on Perseverance’ side. The lighting was insufficient to determine exactly what was in the tube, and the crew needed to be specific. On September 4, NASA’s chief engineer on the mission, Adam Steltzner, tweeted his congrats. He wrote, “We got it.” According to Steven Ruff, a planetary geologist at Arizona State University and founder of the YouTube channel Mars Guy, the early photographs indicate rust-red silt containing iron-rich minerals.

Percy’s landing site in Jezero Crater originally housed a large body of water, and his two sampling attempts have already revealed some of Mars’ geologic history. It’s like putting a letter in an envelope to get the Martian rock core into the sample tube.

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