New Delhi: After initially failing to grab a rock sample, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) has confirmed that its Perseverance rover has in its second attempt succeeded to collect a sample of Martian rock, a core from Jezero Crater slightly thicker than a pencil. The space agency has verified that a pencil-width core of rust-colored rock is safely trapped in the rover’s sample tube, which is ready to be processed and sent back to Earth. Mission controllers at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in Southern California received data that confirmed the historic milestone.Also Read - NASA Launches 12-Year-Long Mission Lucy to Explore Solar System Origin, Trojan Asteroids. All You Need to Know
The core is now enclosed in an airtight titanium sample tube, making it available for retrieval in the future. Through the Mars Sample Return campaign, NASA and ESA (European Space Agency) are planning a series of future missions to return the rover’s sample tubes to Earth for closer study. These samples would be the first set of scientifically identified and selected materials returned to our planet from another. Also Read - NASA to Launch First 'Lucy' Mission to Distant Asteroids on Oct 16 | Details Inside
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“NASA has a history of setting ambitious goals and then accomplishing them, reflecting our nation’s commitment to discovery and innovation,” said NASA Administrator Bill Nelson. “This is a momentous achievement and I can’t wait to see the incredible discoveries produced by Perseverance and our team.”
Along with identifying and collecting samples of rock and regolith (broken rock and dust) while searching for signs of ancient microscopic life, Perseverance’s mission includes studying the Jezero region to understand the geology and ancient habitability of the area, as well as to characterize the past climate.
“For all of NASA science, this is truly a historic moment,” said Thomas Zurbuchen, associate administrator for science at NASA Headquarters in Washington. “Just as the Apollo Moon missions demonstrated the enduring scientific value of returning samples from other worlds for analysis here on our planet, we will be doing the same with the samples Perseverance collects as part of our Mars Sample Return program. Using the most sophisticated science instruments on Earth, we expect jaw-dropping discoveries across a broad set of science areas, including exploration into the question of whether life once existed on Mars.”
The Mars 2020 Perseverance mission is part of NASA’s Moon to Mars exploration approach, which includes Artemis missions to the Moon that will help prepare for the first human exploration mission to the Red Planet.