by Elizabeth Gamillo/Smithsonianmag.com
With a whirl of its drill, NASA’s Perseverance rover triumphantly collected its first rock sample from Mars on September 6, reports Maya Wei-Haas for National Geographic. A total of 30 Martian rock samples are planned for collection and may indicate whether the Red Planet ever hosted microbial life, CNN’s Ashley Strickland reports.
“For all of NASA science, this is truly a historic moment,” says Thomas Zurbuchen, associate administrator for science at NASA Headquarters in Washington, in a statement. “Just as the Apollo Moon missions demonstrated the enduring scientific value of returning samples from other worlds for analysis here on our planet, we will be doing the same with the samples Perseverance collects as part of our Mars Sample Return program.”
The milestone comes after the rover appeared to have cored and collected a sample from the Jezero Crater’s floor on August 5. But when NASA scientists analyzed the data from the drilling experiment, they found that the sample never made it into the titanium tube. Researchers suspect the rock sample may have crumbled to pieces during collection.