CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. (AP) — NASA’s newest Mars rover has successfully collected its first rock sample for return to Earth, after last month’s attempt came up empty.
The Perseverance rover’s chief engineer, Adam Steltzner, called it a perfect core sample.
“I’ve never been more happy to see a hole in a rock,” he tweeted Thursday.
A month ago, Perseverance drilled into much softer rock, and the sample crumbled and didn’t get inside the titanium tube. The rover drove a half-mile to a better sampling spot to try again. Team members analyzed data and pictures before declaring success.
Perseverance arrived in February at Mars’ Jezero Crater — believed to be the home of a lush lakebed and river delta billions of years ago — in search of rocks that might hold evidence of ancient life. NASA plans to launch more spacecraft to retrieve the samples collected by Perseverance; engineers are hoping to return as many as three dozen samples in about a decade.
“Be patient, little sample, your journey is about to begin,” Steltzner said.