The Mars rover Perseverance most likely achieved an important mission objective and took a rock sample from the Red Planet. This is indicated by newly published images from NASA. The first photo of the spacecraft shows a clean hole in a briefcase-sized stone in the Jezero crater that Perseverance was drilling with his two meter long robotic arm.
A second photo shows the sample cylinder filled with the extracted rock, about as thick as a felt pen. However, it is not yet certain whether the sample is actually well stowed away. Further pictures of the tube were “ambiguous” because of the lighting conditions, announced the NASA. Recordings with a more favorable position of the sun should now bring clarity.
One explanation for the sample that suddenly disappeared could be the action that Perseverance performed after drilling: The rover shook the tube five times for around a second to knock off residue from the opening of the cylinder. The rock can slide down deeper in the cylinder so that it may no longer be visible from above. In order to confirm the sampling, NASA can access other internal data in addition to camera recordings.
With the help of PerseveranceProbe, researchers want to learn more about the geology of Mars and look for traces of microorganisms. For this purpose, the samples taken by the rover are to be brought to earth by 2031 with the help of another space probe from the European space agency Esa.
A first attempt to drill into rock on Mars failed at the beginning of August. At that time it was not possible to maneuver a sample into the intended container, presumably because of the rock that Perseverance had made up his mind to be too brittle.