NASA is celebrating confirmation via data it received from its Perseverance Rover that indicates it has completed the collection of its first rock core sample on Mars. Data was received from the rover on September 1, indicating that successful coring operations had been completed. Images gathered from Perseverance clearly show an intact sample present in the sample collection tube after coring.
However, not all was perfect with the images received from the rover. NASA says it will obtain additional imagery before proceeding with sealing and storing the rock sample. Additional imagery is needed because some images taken after the sample was acquired were inconclusive due to poor lighting conditions on Mars.
NASA is confident the sample is in the tube because images taken in optimal lighting conditions confirmed it was there. Perseverance can collect rock core samples slightly thicker than a pencil using its Sampling and Caching System. Inside the coring bit is the sample tube, which can be seen in the image below. That image was taken with Perseverance’s Mastcam-Z instrument.
The coring target was a rock approximately the size of a briefcase located on a ridgeline about half a mile long covered in rocky outcrops and boulders of various sizes. After the images confirmed the sample was in the sample tube, the rover began to vibrate the coring drill bit for one second five different times. That procedure is called “percuss to ingest” and is meant to clear the lip of the sample tube of any residual material.
However, that process can cause the rock sample to slide further into the sample tube. NASA was unable to view the inside of the sample tube due to lighting conditions in images taken after the percussion process. NASA will obtain new images of the corer and tube on September 3.