Perseverance rover captures core Earth-return sample on second attempt
NASA has released an image showing that the space agency's Perseverance Mars rover has successfully retrieved its first rock drill sample for return to Earth. Taken by the Mastcam-Z camera on September 1, the image shows a drill bit holding a pencil-thick core in the sample tube.
The recent confirmation comes after NASA's first unsuccessful attempt to capture a drill sample on August 5. During that try, Perseverance used the drill assembly on its robotic arm to bore into a polygonal rock named Roubion. It was hoped that this would be a sample from one of the oldest rocks in the crater that the rover is traversing, but examination soon showed that the drill was empty.
What happened isn't exactly certain, but the "dropped core" incident may be due to the rotary-percussion drilling causing the sample to disintegrate into sand or dust before it could be sealed in a sample return tube. Uncertain as to whether the problem was the mechanism or an unusually delicate rock, NASA decided to move to a new area before drilling again.
The new image shows the successful sample inside the sample tube set in the drill bit, as well as residual material that will be cleared by vibrating the drill bit later. The tube serial number, 266, is also visible, as is the bronze-colored outer-ring is the coring bit.
Along with the released image, NASA ordered Perseverance to take several more under better light conditions for more confirmation of the core's presence before the sample tube is sealed and stored in a cache container, which will be dropped on the Martian surface as the rover moves on to new areas.
The cache will be retrieved by a later sample return rover, which will hand it off to a series of spacecraft that will launch it into Mars orbit before returning the samples to Earth. Once on Earth, they will be subjected to detailed analysis to determine if life once existed on Mars or could exist there today.