NASA plans to scrape a Mars rock before its next drilling attempt

NASA has updated its Perseverance rock sampling plans, revealing the process it will initiate in the coming days as it determines where to drill next for a core sample. The news comes only a couple of weeks after the first drill sampling attempt failed, an issue believed to have been caused by rock composition that differed from what experts had expected.

The first attempt to drill a sample core from a rock on Mars failed because, the space agency recently explained, the rock likely turned to powder or sand when drilled. That's why NASA's Perseverance team plans to first abrade a rock to figure out whether it can handle the rover's drill before actually drilling.

Assuming the selected target is able to withstand the drilling process, Perseverance will use its robotic arm to retrieve a core from the Martian surface. The drilled core sample will be packaged in a titanium tube and deposited on Mars for a future mission to pick up.

The ultimate goal is to launch a mission that will arrive on Mars, retrieve the titanium tubes full of drilled samples, and then ship them to Earth for study. This would mark a huge milestone in humanity's exploration of the Red Planet.

The rover was shipped with a few dozen titanium tubes for these drilled samples. With the first tube empty, there are 42 remaining tubes — all of which will hopefully be home to thin pencil-sized rock samples. Assuming the new target is selected for drilling, the process will happen next week.