NASA announced that the Perseverance rover extracted and stored a sample of Martian rock on Wednesday (8). This is the second similar operation successfully performed in less than a week.
The feat indicates that the space agency’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) tweaked the rover’s sample collection process after a failed attempt in August, when the material crumbled to powder before being sucked into the collection tube.
After the failure, Perseverance was moved to a rock with a more stable structure. Both collected samples were taken from this rock, with the rover piercing pencil-sized pieces before storing them in titanium tubes.
The rover will use its on-board instrument set to preliminarily examine the samples. A new mission must transport the payload to Earth so scientists can use more powerful tools and analyze the samples.
Early investigations indicate that the material collected is of a type of rock known as basalt and may have been part of an ancient lava flow. The rock has reddish patches and small salt-filled cavities, suggesting that it interacts with water for some time.
The Perseverance rover reached the Martian surface on February 18, 2021 and is considered the largest mission to Mars in history. NASA’s main goal is to gather about 35 samples that represent the geological history of the Jezero Crater, which housed a lake billions of years ago and may contain evidence of life on the red planet.
One of the main differences, compared to previous missions, is the presence of Ingenuity, the first aircraft to carry out controlled and powered flights on another planet. The equipment, which is in the testing phase, has helped Perseverance to plan its routes with greater efficiency and safety.