So far, data sent back from the rover and initial images indicate that an intact sample was inside the tube after perseverance drilled into a rock selected by the expedition’s science team.
After taking the initial images, the rover shook the drill bit and tube for five one-second bursts to remove any remaining material from outside the tube.
The additional step of taking additional images before sealing the sample tube and storing it was added after a persistent attempt to drill into another rock target was added on August 5. During that attempt, the rocks collapsed and no sample was present in the tube once it was stored.
“The project got the first rock drilled under its belt, and that’s an enormous achievement,” Jennifer Trosper, mission manager for the mission at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, said in a statement. “The team located, selected and excavated a viable and scientifically valuable rock. We did what we came for. We will work through this little hiccup with the lighting conditions in the images and we will continue to encourage having a sample in this tube.”
The rover uses a rotary hammer drill and a hollow drill bit to drill into the rocks and collect thicker pencil samples. This sampling system is located at the end of the vehicle’s 7-foot (2 meters) robotic arm.
Perseverance is currently exploring the Citadelle site on Jezero Crater, which – billions of years ago – was the site of an ancient lake. The vehicle’s specific target was a rock called Rochette, which is about the size of a small suitcase and is part of a half-mile-long ridge line of rocky outcrops and boulders.
The mission team should receive more pictures of what’s inside the sample tube by Sept. 4. If images taken while the sun is at a better angle don’t help the team determine if a sample is present, the tube will be closed and the rover will measure its volume.
If Perseverance can successfully collect samples from Mars, they will be brought back to Earth by future missions – and could reveal whether microbial life exists on Mars.