22nd February 2024 2:04 pm
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Mars rocks – NASA confirms it has a sample of Martian rock

The Perseverance Rover on Mars has successfully drilled a Martian rock and obtained a sample.

As you might recall, last week NASA reported that Perseverance had successfully drilled a Martian rock, but unfortunately the light quality meant that the spacefaring firm couldn’t confirm it had a sample.

Now NASA has confirmed that it obtained a rock sample which it has sealed in hopes of it being retrieved in future.

While drilling a rock doesn’t seem all that spectacular, especially for NASA, as it turns out, it’s a rather complex process.

After finding a suitable rock that NASA has named Rochette, a rotary-percussive drill at the end of Perseverance’s robotic arm was used to core the rock. The sample was then moved so that the Mastcam-Z could image the contents of the unsealed sample tube. You can see that image in the header above.

Once NASA had finally confirmed it had the rock sample it was transferred to a sample tube where it was stored inside Perseverance. From there it was hermetically sealed, another image was taken and the sample was stored.

The rock sample is stored within an airtight titanium sample tube.

“With over 3,000 parts, the Sampling and Caching System is the most complex mechanism ever sent into space,” explains interim director of the NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Larry James.

“Our Perseverance team is excited and proud to see the system perform so well on Mars and take the first step for returning samples to Earth. We also recognise that a worldwide team of NASA, industry partners, academia, and international space agencies contributed to and share in this historic success”.

How does NASA intend to get Martian rock samples back to Earth?

The agency together with the European Space Agency are currently planning future missions which could see the retrieval of this, and other samples collected on Mars.

When we would see that is an unknown quantity at this stage but we’ll be sure to share more information when NASA and the ESA share it.

[Image – NASA/JPL-Caltech]

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