WASHINGTON: Nasa has confirmed that its Perseverance rover has succeeded in collecting its first rock sample on Mars.
“I’ve got it!” the space agency tweeted within the early hours of Monday, alongside a photograph of a rock core slightly thicker than a pencil inside a sample tube.
Nasa said last week it thought it had accomplished the feat, but poorly-lit photographs taken by the rover meant that the team operating the mission weren’t certain whether the sample had stayed inside its tube.
It had to retake the photographs in better lighting, but sending back the info can take several days.
“With better lighting down the sample tube, you’ll see the rock core I collected remains in there,” said Nasa within the new tweet, adding that subsequent stage would be sealing this tube and storing it.
The target was a briefcase-sized rock nicknamed “Rochette” from a ridgeline that’s half a mile (900 meters) long.
Perseverance uses a drill and a hollow coring bit at the top of its 7-foot-long (2-meter-long) robotic arm to extract samples.
After coring the rock, the rover vibrated the drilling bit and tube for one second, five separate times.
This procedure is named “percuss to ingest” and is supposed to clear the lip of the tube of residual material, and cause the sample to slip down the tube.
Perseverance landed on an ancient lake bottom called the Jezero Crater in February, on a mission to look for signs of ancient microbial life employing a suite of sophisticated instruments mounted on its turret.
It is also trying to raised characterize the Red Planet’s geology and past climate.
Eventually Nasa wants to gather samples taken by the rover during a joint mission with the ecu Space Agency, sometime within the 2030s.
Its first attempt at taking a sample in August failed after the rock was too crumbly to face up to the robot’s drill.