NASA's Perseverance rover will soon try to collect its second Mars sample.
The car-sized robot sealed up a drilled-out core of a Red Planet rock dubbed "Rochette" over the weekend, notching a huge milestone for its ambitious mission. The Perseverance team aims to replicate that success soon, putting poor Rochette to the drill again.
"I've captured my first Mars sample and I'm ready to core a second sample from this same rock. This time, I will run through the entire process of coring and sealing the tube without pausing," mission team members wrote Tuesday (Sept. 7) via Perseverance's official Twitter account.
Perseverance landed inside Mars' 28-mile-wide (45 kilometers) Jezero Crater in February to hunt for signs of past Mars life and collect and cache dozens of samples. That pristine Mars material will be hauled to Earth, perhaps as early as 2031, by a joint NASA-European Space Agency campaign.
The rover attempted to snare its first sample on Aug. 5, but the rock it drilled that day crumbled to bits that evaded their designated titanium tube. Perseverance tried again on Sept. 1 with Rochette, taking extra time to make sure that the 2.4-inch-long (6 centimeters) core was safely retained in the tube before sealing it up on Saturday (Sept. 4).
As noted in Tuesday's tweet, this coming attempt will be a shorter, more streamlined affair, potentially helping the mission team nail down the most efficient and effective sample-collecting process for Perseverance on the Red Planet.
We'll learn more about the rover's latest activities on Friday (Sept. 10), during a webcast briefing that begins at noon EDT (1600 GMT). You can watch it live here on Space.com when the time comes, courtesy of NASA, or directly via the space agency.
The briefing participants are:
- Lori Glaze, director of NASA's Planetary Science Division at NASA headquarters in Washington
- Jessica Samuels, Perseverance surface mission manager at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in Southern California
- Matt Robinson, Perseverance strategic sampling operations team chief, JPL
- Katie Stack Morgan, Perseverance deputy project scientist, JPL.
- Yulia Goreva, Perseverance return sample investigation scientist, JPL
- Meenakshi Wadhwa, Mars sample return principal scientist, JPL and Arizona State University
Mike Wall is the author of "Out There" (Grand Central Publishing, 2018; illustrated by Karl Tate), a book about the search for alien life. Follow him on Twitter @michaeldwall. Follow us on Twitter @Spacedotcom or Facebook.