Mars rover collects first sample return core

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Perseverance has made history by collecting and storing the first core sample that will one day return to Earth.

During a tricky procedure that took two attempts to get right, the car-sized rover used its drilling instrument to bore into a rock nicknamed \’Rochette\’ with the intention of extracting a core sample that will one day be picked up and returned to Earth by another spacecraft.

The process itself was a little nerve-wracking and for a little while it wasn\’t clear if the sample had been dropped onto the ground, however in the end it was retrieved successfully.

The core sample is the first of two dozen that will be collected by the rover as part of stage one of NASA\’s highly ambitious multi-stage sample-return mission.

Stage two will see a second rover launch in 2026 and arrive on Mars in 2028. Its job will be to meet up with Perseverance, collect the samples, then take them back to its landing vehicle which will launch them in a capsule back up into space.

For stage three, a third spacecraft will rendez-vous with the capsule and then set a course back home.

If all goes to plan it will re-enter Earth\’s atmosphere with its precious cargo sometime in 2031.

“This is by no means a simple task,” said Jim Watzin, head of NASA\’s Mars exploration program in Washington DC. “But we have kept it as simple as possible.”

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