The first Mars rocks collected by the Perseverance rover, which NASA hopes will be sent back to Earth for study in the next decade. NASA/JPL-Caltech/ASU

NASA’s Perseverance Rover drilled the rocks on Mars and made the first successful sampling. 

Iran PressSci & Tech: This time, the rock did not disappear.

After a perplexing failure last month, NASA’s latest Mars rover, Perseverance, was able to drill a sample of rock on Wednesday. The rover took pictures of the rock in the tube and sent the images to Earth so that mission managers could be sure they had not come up empty again. Then Perseverance will seal the collection tube and put it away in its belly, The New York Times reported.

The success, visible in images posted online on Thursday, is most likely a relief to scientists working on the mission.

“You can see a beautiful rock core,” Kenneth A. Farley, a professor of geochemistry at the California Institute of Technology and the project scientist for Perseverance, said in an email on Thursday morning.

One of the key tasks for Perseverance is to collect rocks and soil that will eventually be brought back to Earth by another mission so that scientists can exhaustively study them using state-of-the-art instruments in their laboratories, the way they have with moon rocks from the Apollo and Soviet missions of the 1960s and ’70s.

And yet, on Aug 6, the first time that Perseverance drilled, collected and sealed a rock sample, everything appeared to go flawlessly — except the tube was empty.

“It was definitely a bit of despair,” Farley said in an interview before the latest drilling attempt. “Everybody was so ready to declare victory. And then somebody said, ‘Yeah, here’s a picture, there’s nothing in the tube.’ It was very deflating.”

The rover used its cameras to look around and see if the rock core had somehow dropped to the ground. But there was no sign of it. The rock sample had, it seemed, vanished.


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