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NASA’s newest Mars rover, Perseverance, snags first rock sample for return

Rock is seen inside rover equipment.
A closeup of the first Martian rock sample obtained by NASA’s Perseverance rover. The rock is set for return to Earth.
(NASA / JPL-Caltech / ASU)

NASA’s newest Mars rover has successfully collected its first rock sample for return to Earth, after last month’s attempt came up empty.

The Perseverance rover’s chief engineer, Adam Steltzner, called it a perfect core sample.

“I’ve never been more happy to see a hole in a rock,” he tweeted Thursday.

A month ago, Perseverance drilled into much softer rock, but the sample crumbled and didn’t make it inside the titanium tube.

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If NASA’s Perseverance rover lands safely on Mars, it will become the first space mission in nearly 45 years to directly search for signs of microbial life.

The rover drove half a mile to a better sampling spot to try again. Team members analyzed data and pictures before declaring success.

Perseverance arrived in February at Mars’ Jezero Crater — believed to be the home of a lush lakebed and river delta billions of years ago — in search of rocks that might hold evidence of ancient life.

NASA plans to launch more spacecraft to retrieve the samples collected by Perseverance; engineers are hoping to return as many as three dozen samples in about a decade.

“Be patient, little sample, your journey is about to begin,” Steltzner said.


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