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Perseverance rover drills into Mars for 1st time in milestone for sample collection

An image taken by the Perseverance rover of its first drill hole on Mars taken on Aug. 6, 2021. (Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech)

Editor's note: NASA announced on Friday afternoon (Aug. 6) that Perseverance failed to collect any Mars samples during this drilling attempt. Read our story about that here

NASA's Perseverance rover has notched another milestone on Mars, drilling its first hole for sampling Red Planet rock.

The drill hole marks just one step of a sampling process that will take about 11 days all told, according to previous NASA statements, which should mean that if all goes well, the full procedure will wrap up just in time for the rover to celebrate six months since it landed on Mars, on Feb. 18.

"My first drill hole on Mars!" the mission's Twitter account announced on Friday (Aug. 6) with an image of the hole. "Collecting and storing rock samples is a big and complex task, and this is a huge step. Next step: processing."

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Perseverance is designed to study the geology and look for traces of long-lost life on the Red Planet by exploring what scientists have dubbed Jezero Crater, which they believe was a lakebed billions of years ago. 

Drilling on Mars isn't new to Perseverance — the car-sized rover's predecessor Curiosity has done the same task a couple dozen times in the course of its nine years on the Red Planet. However, Curiosity selected rocks to drill only for its own instruments to study. Perseverance, instead, will both analyze the samples and pack them away for a future mission to carry to Earth's laboratories.

In the lead-up to drilling, the mission team announced that this rock sample may be the oldest Perseverance collects throughout the course of its work. Scientists are particularly excited for the new sample because they aren't sure yet whether the rock is volcanic or formed by layers of lakebed deposits.

Email Meghan Bartels at mbartels@space.com or follow her on Twitter @meghanbartels. Follow us on Twitter @Spacedotcom and on Facebook.

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Meghan Bartels

Meghan is a senior writer at Space.com and has more than five years' experience as a science journalist based in New York City. She joined Space.com in July 2018, with previous writing published in outlets including Newsweek and Audubon. Meghan earned an MA in science journalism from New York University and a BA in classics from Georgetown University, and in her free time she enjoys reading and visiting museums. Follow her on Twitter at @meghanbartels.