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NASA's Perseverance Rover Has Scooped Up Its First Sample of Mars

And the alien rocks will piggy-back their way to Earth on a future mission.

NASA's Perseverance rover successfully completed its first sample-taking operation 190 days into its mission on Mars, a NASA Twitter post reveals. 

On Sept. 1, NASA stated that data had arrived from Perseverance via its Deep Space Network (DSN), showing that the machine had successfully completed the sample-taking operation of drilling into a rock on the red planet's surface and retrieving a thin core of rock sample. 

However, much in the same fashion as NASA's recent historic Ingenuity helicopter flight on Mars, the Perseverance team wanted photographic assurance that their data was, in fact, correct.

"I've got it!"

Now, new images show that the rock core is sitting in the Perseverance rover's sample tube. On September 3, NASA announced via a first-person Mars Perseverance tweet that there was a sample in the tube after coring, however, images taken after an arm move were inconclusive due to poor lighting at the time it was taken.

On September 5, NASA announced that it had re-taken the images and better lighting conditions allowed them to confirm that the rock sample is still housed in the tube. "I've got it!", the NASA Perseverance Twitter account posted. Next, NASA says it will process the sample before sealing the tube. 

In search of ancient Martian life

The Perseverance rover's landing site on Mars' Jezero Crater was chosen as it is thought to have once been flooded with water, meaning that it may harbor clues as to the existence of ancient life on the red planet. The rock sample taken by Perseverance, with the aid of a 6-foot-long (182 cm) robotic arm, is the first of up to 43 that will be sealed within the machine, ready for an eventual trip back to Earth.

NASA's Perseverance Rover Has Scooped Up Its First Sample of Mars
The rock on Mars from which the Perseverance rover retrieved a sample. Source: NASA/Twitter

NASA, in collaboration with the European Space Agency (ESA), plans to have the rover leave rock samples at specific locations on Mars for retrieval. A yet-to-be-built martian lander and sample collection robot will reach the surface of Mars in 2026, before collecting the samples and launching them back to Earth. The samples are expected to reach Earth in 2030, at which point scientists will be able to analyze the composition of the several Martian rock samples.

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NASA's Mars Perseverance rover is ushering in a new era of discovery and innovation related to Mars as well as Mars-bound technologies. Aside from the machine's rock samples and previously mentioned Ingenuity helicopter flight, the Perseverance mission also performed another historic first by extracting breathable oxygen on Mars with an experimental instrument called MOXIE. All of these innovations are gradual stepping stones towards plans for eventual human exploration of the red planet in the 2030s.

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