The American rover Perseverance has made a second attempt to obtain a rock sample on Mars, according to BBC News. The photographs show that the robot has punched a neat hole in the thick slab, dubbed the Rochette. Mission operators now need to understand how successful the drilling was and whether the rover was able to get a core with the rock. A previous attempt in early August resulted in the extracted sample crumbling into dust.
If this time the Perseverance rover is lucky, then this core will be the first piece of rock in history, extracted from a rock on another planet and prepared for sending to Earth. The rover is tasked with collecting more than two dozen samples over the next year, and at the end of this decade, the samples will be delivered to Earth by joint efforts of the United States and Europe. Before sealing the cylinder with the core, the rover will photograph its contents. It was at this stage in early August, during the first sampling attempt, that the Perseverance scientists realized that there was nothing in the test tube. Most likely, during the core extraction process, the rock sample crumbled into powder, which then crumbled to the ground near the well.
NASA then studied all the data and carefully examined the drilling site to understand what happened. The images of the location near the borehole showed a powdery rock that could simply crumble. “It looks like this rock was not strong enough to be coring,” said Louise Jandura, chief sampling and storage specialist. "The material from the target core is probably either left at the bottom of the well, or is in a pile of rock removed during drilling, or there is some combination of both."
Perseverance has 43 vials, so losing one sample was not a major blow to the mission. The rover collects soil samples into titanium tubes. The drilling process itself at Perseverance is proceeding normally.