NASA’S Perseverance Rover Collects First Mars Rock Sample, Ignites Hunt for Alien Life

by Megan Molseed
(Photo illustration by NASA via Getty Images)

The Mars rover has grabbed its first rock sample. NASA’s Perseverance Rover will store the remarkable sample; along with others collected along the way. Upon return to Earth, the rover will deliver the exceptional sample to scientists who are eagerly awaiting the opportunity to study them.

Until then, the rock core sample remains inside an airtight titanium tube designed to store the samples collected by the Perseverance Rover.

This sample is a major step in the hunt for alien life, scientists say, and will “change everything for Mars science.”

A Small Sample With A Big Purpose

The sample has been stored in a container and is about the size of an average pencil. While the sample may be small in size, its meaning is enormous.

Along with other samples collected by the surveying rover, this sample will help scientists understand Mars’s landscape; as well as help experts determine whether or not there was once life on the planet.

“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,” Zurbuchen continued. The scientist added that the Perseverance rover is using the most technologically advanced science during its trip to Mars.

“Using the most sophisticated science instruments on Earth, we expect jaw-dropping discoveries across a broad set of science areas,” NASA expert explained. “Including exploration into the question of whether life once existed on Mars.”

NASA’s Perseverance Rover Is In Regular Contact With Earth

The Perseverance Rover used a drill attached to an arm to dig into a rock within Mars’s Jezero crater. Scientists note this rock is about the size of a briefcase. Scientists have nicknamed this rock “Rochette.”

NASA’s Perseverance Rover began the process of drilling for the notable sample at the start of this month. The rover also snapped a photo of the sample before sealing it for safekeeping. The Perseverance Rover then sent the photo to controllers here on earth.

Upon seeing a photo of the sample, scientists guided the Perseverance Rover to seal it inside the container; and store it away Tuesday evening.

“Getting the first sample under our belt is a huge milestone,” noted one of the Perseverance project scientists, Ken Farley.

“When we get these samples back on Earth, they are going to tell us a great deal about some of the earliest chapters in the evolution of Mars,” he added.

Farley noted that while the sample will be a huge step in the right direction, it is just the tip of the iceberg.

“However geologically intriguing the contents of sample tube 266 will be,” the scientist explained. “They won’t tell the complete story of this place.”

There is so much more of the planet, and the crater, left to explore, Farley added.

“There is a lot of Jezero Crater left to explore,” he said. “We will continue our journey in the months and years ahead.”