NASA’s Perseverance rover collects a first-ever mars rock sample

NASA’s latest Mars rover, Perseverance landed on mars after an almost 300 million mile journey. Perseverance could successfully collect a Martian rock sample last week. Now, the rover is processing and sealing the sample tube. It’s the first Mars rock core sample to be stowed on the rover. 

NASA hopes this core will be the first of many – the rover is carrying 43 such tubes. In about a decade, the agency plans to send another spacecraft to gather those samples and launch them back to Earth. Scientists suspect that, if they can get their hands on Jezero Crater’s rocks-ancient lake bed, they may find the first strong evidence of ancient alien life.

The rocks date to 3.5 billion years ago, making them some of the oldest in the entire solar system, and will give scientists a glimpse at what conditions were like when the planets were only just forming.

“This is a momentous achievement and I can’t wait to see the incredible discoveries produced by Perseverance and our team,” NASA administrator Bill Nelson said in a statement.

The rover uses a rotary-percussive drill and hollow coring bit to drill into rocks and collect samples just a bit thicker than a pencil. This sampling system is located on the end of the rover’s 7-foot-long (2-meter-long) robotic arm. Initial photos were taken Wednesday to show a sample in the tube but later images were inconclusive because of poor lighting, NASA said in a news release.