The Perseverance rover attempted on Friday to collect its first sample of the red planet but data returned to Earth showed that no rock was collected. This is not an issue that was ever encountered while using the sampling system on Earth during testing ahead of launch. Engineers were working to figure out what happened. The next step will be using a camera mounted on a robotic arm to inspect inside the hole “and see what’s down there,” said NASA project scientist Ken Farley.The task was to drill down into a rock at the rover’s current parking spot, collect a sample and safely seal it inside a tube. There are 43 titanium tubes aboard the rover, about 35 of which will be returned to Earth by future missions with precious samples from Jezero Crater, the site where an ancient lake and river delta existed billions of years ago.
A key objective for Perseverance’s mission on Mars is astrobiology, including the search for signs of ancient microbial life. Perseverance has a system to obtain and store samples that uses a hollow coring bit as well as a percussive drill. “The sampling process is autonomous from beginning to end,” said Jessica Samuels, the rover’s surface mission manager at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, in a statement. Sticky soil and unpredictable rocks have posed challenges to other robotic missions exploring Mars, like Curiosity.