back to article Perseverance rover drilled a rock on Mars and probably snaffled a core sample

NASA's Perseverance Mars rover has successfully drilled into a rock and probably retrieved a sample it's hoped will one day be kidnapped on a one-way trip to Earth. Perseverance's first attempt to obtain a core sample of a Martian rock failed when its chosen target crumbled beneath the might of Earth's finest drilling …

  1. UCAP Silver badge

    Hopefully that is another step that NASA can tick off.

    Laboratories on Earth must be collectively drooling in excitement at getting their hands on real samples from Mars, taken from known locations. No matter how good the rovers are, they cannot take the fully resources of a terrestrial lab with them. Certainly our knowledge of the Moon advanced considerably once the first lunar samples where retrieved.

    Raising a glass to Perseverance today.

    1. I am David Jones

      On the other hand

      Maybe the killer Mars microbes are drooling with excitement because there is not much fun they can have with a rover, but when they get their tentacles on a fully-resourced terrestrial lab…

    2. HildyJ Silver badge

      If at first you don't suceed, drill, drill, again

      When they get back, they will not only tell us a great deal about a variety of areas (whereas now all our Mars samples are of meteorites from areas that are not known) but the knowledge will be crucial to any human exploration plans.

      As for those comments questioning why Perseverance wasn't designed to return them directly, it was already at the weight limit for the mission. A return module wouldn't have fit.

  2. BackToTheFuture

    Holy Rock, Batman!

    "In these images, the lighting is poor, and internal portions of the sample tube are not visible," NASA warned. More snaps will be taken in due course so that NASA can feel sure the process worked.

    Hmmm - a few seconds in Photoshop lightening the shadows reveals what appears to be quite a lotta rock sample in there, and in good resolution. Now, how to let those NASA rocket scientists know about the existence of photo editing software............

    1. TheProf Silver badge

      Re: Holy Rock, Batman!

      I think NASA have had enough bother from people who 'manipulate' internet images without indulging in the practice themselves.

      The engineers could have fitted an LED to shine a light into those notoriously dark unlit drilling tubes. Cost would have been what? 5p for an LED?

      1. werdsmith Silver badge

        Re: Holy Rock, Batman!

        A TRL 9 LED proven to work in harsh space environments with ionising radiation and stuff would probably cost at least 200 Bazooka Joe comics.

      2. Mark 85 Silver badge

        Re: Holy Rock, Batman!

        Cost would have been what? 5p for an LED?

        True that but then there's "testing the LED to qualify it, design and build the holder and circuitry, and then integrate into the craft. Suddenly it becomes rather pricey to go through. Qualifying parts for space ain't cheap.

        1. NorthIowan

          Re: Qualifying parts for space ain't cheap.

          It's been too long, so I don't remember if my professor actually work on a Mars lander mission or just was familiar with them. But he said the heat sterilization of a Mars lander took the electronics through 90% of their expected lifetime.

      3. Gene Cash Silver badge

        Re: Holy Rock, Batman!

        > The engineers could have fitted an LED

        Actually they DID. After Martian sunset on the last attempt, they shined an LED into the hole to reveal that it was empty.

      4. HelpfulJohn

        Re: Holy Rock, Batman!

        An LED? Whatever for?

        They have a nuclear-powered alien robotic tank armed with death-ray lasers. Just tone down the output to 1% or something and those would make a fine scanny beam for the cameras.

        It would be slightly monochromatic, true, but they are after all merely looking down the tube to see if it is blocked by rock or all shiny at the empty end. The difference between the two conditions is sort of stark and easily discriminated.

        Added advantage to Martian daylight photography, lower bit-count due to fewer colours.

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    1. Sceptic Tank

      Own work, please!

      Somebody seems to have stolen your comment.

  4. elsergiovolador Silver badge

    Planet Doctor

    So Mars brings a sample to a planet doctor. A week later it gets the results:

    - We have a bad news, it looks like you started developing humans. It's probably going to take 100,000 years before the rash disappears.

  5. herman Silver badge

    They are just playing

    A future mission is supposed to pick up the samples and return it to earth. It will be much easier for a future mission to just scoop up a shovel full of gravel and bring that back.

    1. elsergiovolador Silver badge

      Re: They are just playing

      There is a risk, they say "It's so cool in here, we ain't coming back!"

      1. HelpfulJohn

        Re: They are just playing

        Well, truthfully, I would see little reason for a return trip were NASA wise enough to let me loose on Mars.

        Though I probably wouldn't survive the training, nor the launch to Earth orbit so that's a moot point but if I did survive through those and the landing, I'd be happier never to leave.

        Just fit me with some batteries and a toolbox with 1970-s replacement parts and screw-drivers and I could also have fun reviving everything from Viking to Beagle. Maybe I could even swap the battery packs for RTG's and have the little robots run about and talk to Earth for decades?

        Yerp, I could find endless amusement.

        Mr. Watney had no vision. He could have owned an entire *world*. :)

        [Aside: why didn't a *Botanist* have live seeds of mosses, fungi, flowers, fruits, trees and fishes to test the growth potential of the Martian dirt on? Why else would he be on the mission? And if there were RTG's around, why not power the rovers with them? Solar power on Mars is a daft choice.] [Sorry, that's off-topic, yes? :) ] [But those types of thing *bother* me. RTG's are lighter than solar arrays for the power they supply and cheaper, getting the plutonium off of the Earth means it can never hurt the cute, fluffy bunnies and RTG's in the rovers can be used to charge up all sorts of things when not roving about and the only reason for a Botanist is to *botany*. Him taking soil samples is a waste of his degrees.]

  6. Pascal Monett Silver badge

    "NASA's image of that sample"

    Hey Mulder, is that a bit of black goo I see on the left-hand part of the image ?

  7. DS999 Silver badge

    I'm willing to bet

    That the samples Perseverance is collecting will NEVER be returned to Earth. We're really going to launch a future rover, land it very close to Perseverance so it can sidle up alongside, and have some type of handoff procedure to pass its samples to the return mission? In what world is that easier than just giving the return-capable mission the ability to collect samples itself?

    Having Perseverance collect samples as a TEST so we know it works and avoids problems like drills that won't drill and rocks that are too crumbly makes complete sense, so we will be 100% confident the return-capable mission will have something worth returning. But actually returning these samples Perseverance is drilling, no, that's never gonna happen. I don't buy that at all.

    1. Richard 12 Silver badge

      Re: I'm willing to bet

      No, it's going to stash the pack of sample tubes in an easily collected bucket, and leave the bucket partially-buried in a well-marked location.

      The sample return mission simply has to land within a few km (but not too close!), then send out a small collection rover to pick up the bucket with its robot arm, and drive back to the landing site.

      This part is well-proven, all been done before several times. The landing ellipse is quite small - Perseverance was well within its 7.7 x 6.6km ellipse.

      Then it has to reach orbit and come back to Earth.

      This part is difficult, but only in degree, not in kind.

      1. HelpfulJohn

        Re: I'm willing to bet

        To get from Mars to Earth one must have a rocket to launch, a Mar-Earth transfer orbit vehicle and a method of dropping onto Earth's surface. That last is easy and we've done it lots of times. We've even dropped *humans* from orbit into the Ocean and even onto hard land.

        To lift off from Mars one needs fuel. That fuel either has to be made locally or transported from Earth. Neither are easy. Doable, yes but neither easy nor cheap. This is why I'd suggest NASA just drop the idea of a return voyage and send a couple of chemists [Hi, there!] to do the work locally. Humans have proved, over the last couple of centuries, to be quite adept at using tools to take apart rocks to discover their ingredients.

        If you don't do a sample-return from the planet then the orbit-to-orbit phase is moot. That makes the whole mission loads cheaper.

        Sample-returns from littly rocks like asteroids and comets are fun and cheap-ish but Mars is a real planet and launching from there takes delta-v. delta-v ain't cheap so why bother?

        Why bother when humans are cheap and easy to replace and there are lots to choose from? :)

        1. DS999 Silver badge

          Re: I'm willing to bet

          So long as you aren't in a hurry it shouldn't take THAT much fuel. A mission sending/returning humans need to take a path chosen for optimal speed because we don't have cryogenic suspension technology, an unmanned mission can take a minimal fuel use path.

          Next time they launch a rover they could have the rocket from Earth enter orbit around Mars. It deploys a rover that lands on Mars, which does rovery things and collects samples. Eventually the part of it where the samples are stored detaches and the rover drives away. That part has a rocket and enough fuel that it can launch and rendezvous with the orbiter - sort of a small version of the Apollo lander's return module. Like Apollo it docks with the orbiter, which then fires its rocket and returns to Earth orbit.

          When it reaches Earth orbit maybe drops off the samples in a canister with a heat shield that deploys a parachute when it reaches the atmosphere, maybe it stays in orbit and awaits another launch to retrieve it so there is no potential heat damage to any signs of life they may contain.

    2. Annihilator Silver badge

      Re: I'm willing to bet

      Perseverance will sidle up to the pick up point, to find a small yellow and red piece of card...

      "While you were out, DHL..."

  8. This post has been deleted by its author

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