The Jet Propulsion Laboratory’s Perseverance Rover has successfully drilled its first core sample of Martian rock, the lab announced this week.
Images sent back by the robotic explorer on Wednesday indicated it had managed to drill into a rock and retrieve a sample, which is meant to be returned to Earth for further study by a future mission, along with other samples the rover will collect, according to JPL.
“The initial images downlinked after the historic event show an intact sample present in the tube after coring,” JPL said in a written statement. “However, additional images taken after the arm completed sample acquisition were inconclusive due to poor sunlight conditions. Another round of images with better lighting will be taken before the sample processing continues.”
Perseverance Project Manager Jennifer Trosper of JPL congratulated the team on yet another historic milestone.
“The project got its first cored rock under its belt, and that’s a phenomenal accomplishment,” she said.
“The team determined a location, and selected and cored a viable and scientifically valuable rock. We did what we came to do,” Trosper added. “We will work through this small hiccup with the lighting conditions in the images and remain encouraged that there is [a[ sample in this tube.”
Scientists were confident images expected to be sent by the rover on Saturday would confirm the presence of a rock sample, according to JPL.
The sample was drilled from a rock about the size of a briefcase that sits on a half-mile-long ridgeline in Mars’ Jezero Crater.
Perseverance attempted to collect another rock sample last month, but with less success. After drilling into a rock, the sample tube that should have been full of Martian material was found to be empty.
Researchers have been surprised to encounter differing and unexpected rock and soil properties on the Red Planet over the years, according to JPL. Perseverance’s predecessor, the Curiosity Rover, has encountered rocks that were far more hard and brittle than previously thought.
“Most recently, the heat probe on the InSight lander, known as the ‘mole,’ was unable to penetrate the Martian surface as planned, according to the JPL statement.
“I have been on every Mars rover mission since the beginning, and this planet is always teaching us what we don’t know about it,” Trosper said. “One thing I’ve found is, it’s not unusual to have complications during complex, first-time activities.”
More information on the Perseverance Rover is available online at jpl.nasa.gov/missions/mars-