Nasa’s mars rover makes a second bid for a drill sample

Image credit: Spaceflight Now

The Perseverance rover of the US space agency has launched another attempt to gather a rock sample from Mars. The robot created a clean hole in a hefty block dubbed “Rochette,” according to new photographs.

Mission scientists must now determine whether the rover’s drill was successful in securing a core. The sample crumbled to dust on a similar effort last month.

If Perseverance succeeds this time, it will be the first time a rock section has been recovered on another planet and returned to Earth. Over the following year or so, the rover will collect more than two dozen cores, which will be returned to Earth by a combined US-European operation later this decade.

In February, NASA’s Perseverance robot arrived in Mars’ Jezero Crater. The deep, 45-kilometer-wide depression, located 20 degrees north of the planet’s equator, appears to have formerly hosted a lake.

As a result, scientists believe that Jezero’s sediments may contain indications of ancient microbial life, provided that biology ever existed on Mars. The robot has driven more than 2 kilometres from its landing spot to a slightly higher ridge known as the Citadelle.

A caching device on the robot will collect a finger-sized core of rock cut by the drill and place it in a titanium tube.

The rover will photograph the contents of this cylinder before closing it. Perseverance scientists realised they had nothing in the tube during the first sampling effort in early August; the coring mechanism had fragmented the rock to a powder, which subsequently dropped back onto the ground around the drill hole.

The mission crew will be hopeful that Rochette’s situation does not repeat itself.

Perseverance’s mini-helicopter, Ingenuity, continues to follow it about. The drone, which was first sent to Mars as a technology demonstration, is now frequently used to explore the terrain ahead of the rover. Ingenuity has now completed 12 flights.

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