New, better-illuminated images reveal that the probe did, in fact, collect a sample of Martian rocks last week. Now, the rover is processing and sealing the sample tube. It is the first Martian rock sample to be stored on the rover.
It’s one of more than 30 Martian samples that will be brought back to Earth by future missions in the early 2030s — and could reveal whether microbial life exists on Mars.
The rover was drilled into the Martian rock on September 2, but the rover team on Earth wanted better images to make sure the sample was safely in the tube. Images and raw data sent back by the rover indicated an intact sample inside the tube after perseverance drilled into a rock selected by the mission’s science team.
After these images were taken, the rover shook the drill bit and tube in five one-second bursts to remove any remaining material from outside the tube. This likely caused the sample to slide further down into the tube, making it difficult to see.
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 identified a site, selected and excavated a viable rock of scientific value. We did what we came for.”
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.
Flying over Mars
Creativity Helicopter was also busy, working as an aerial scout for future rover adventures. The small helicopter successfully completed its thirteenth flight on the surface of Mars over the weekend.
It flew at a slightly slower speed of 7.3 mph (3.3 meters per second) over South Sittah and took many photos.
The helicopter’s twelfth flight also paid attention to this area, which may be of great interest to the rover’s science team. Flight 13 saw Creativity fly in a different direction over southern Sittah to capture a different perspective.
During the twelfth voyage, scientists were fascinated by the particular ridgeline and its rocky outcrops. Therefore, Dexter flew lower than usual, skimming 26 feet (8 m) over the area instead of 33 feet (10 m).
Now, the science team has images that show this geologically attractive region from the northeast as well as from the southwest. Together, the images can help the Perseverance team decide where to drive next — and where to collect more samples.