Nasa’s Perseverance rover collects first Mars rock sample

By Stuart Clark
Nasa image shows the hole drilled by the Perseverance rover during its second sample collection.
Nasa image shows the hole drilled by the Perseverance rover during its second sample collection. Photograph: AP

Nasa’s Perseverance rover has successfully collected its first rock sample from Mars. If all goes to plan, this sample, along with many others, could one day be brought back to Earth for analysis.

Perseverance’s drill.
Perseverance’s drill. Photograph: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Asu/MSSS/EPA

The sample was drilled out of a briefcase-sized rock, nicknamed Rochette, on 1 September. The rock belongs to a ridge-line almost 1km in length that looks out over the floor of Jezero Crater, where Perseverance landed on 18 February. An attempt on 6 August to drill and store a different rock ended in failure when the sample crumbled into powder before it could be placed into one of 43 titanium sample tubes being carried by the rover.

The tube containing the pencil-width sample of Rochette will be hermetically sealed and stored inside the rover. When all the sample tubes are full of a variety of rocks, Perseverance will cache the tubes on the planet’s surface.

Future missions from the European Space Agency and Nasa will work together to collect these samples, load them on to a rocket to take them into orbit, from where they will be transferred to a return vehicle. If successful, the sample should be back on Earth in the early 2030s.


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