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.

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.

Feb. 17, 2021

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.