The Oklahoman

Mars rover gets 1st rock sample slated for return

- Marcia Dunn

CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. – NASA’s newest Mars rover successful­ly collected its first rock sample for return to Earth, after last month’s attempt came up empty.

The Perseveran­ce rover’s chief engineer, Adam Steltzner, called it a perfect core sample.

“I’ve never been more happy to see a hole in a rock,” he tweeted Thursday.

A month ago, Perseveran­ce drilled into much softer rock, and the sample crumbled and didn’t get inside the titanium tube.

The rover drove a half-mile to a better sampling spot to try again. Team members analyzed data and pictures before declaring success.

Perseveran­ce arrived in February at Mars’ Jezero Crater – believed to be the home of a lush lakebed and river delta billions of years ago – in search of rocks that might hold evidence of ancient life. NASA plans to launch more spacecraft to retrieve the samples collected by Perseveran­ce; engineers are hoping to return as many as three dozen samples in about a decade.

“Be patient, little sample, your journey is about to begin,” Steltzner said.

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