(CNN) – The Perseverance rover successfully drilled into a Martian rock on Thursday, creating an intact core sample that could one day be returned to Earth. But NASA wants better images to make sure the sample is secure in the tube before sealing it and storing it in the rover.
So far, data sent by the rover and initial images suggest that there was an intact sample inside the tube after Perseverance drilled a rock selected by the mission’s science team.
After the initial images were taken, the rover vibrated the bit and tube for five one-second bursts to remove any residual material from the outside of the tube.
This may have caused the sample to slide further down the tube.
The subsequent images taken after this “were inconclusive due to poor sunlight conditions,” according to the agency. Perseverance will use its cameras to take more images in better lighting conditions before taking the next steps in the sampling process.
The added step of taking additional images before sealing and storing the sample tube was added after Perseverance attempted to drill another rock target on August 5. During that attempt, the rock collapsed and there was no sample present in the tube once it was put away.
“The project got its first core rock under its belt, and that’s a phenomenal achievement,” Jennifer Trosper, mission project manager at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, said in a statement. “The team determined a location, and selected and extracted the core from a viable and scientifically valuable rock. We did what we came here to do. We will work through this little problem with the lighting conditions in the images and continue to be encouraged that there is a shows in this tube. “
The rover uses a rotary hammer drill and socket bit to drill through rocks and collect samples slightly thicker than a pencil. This sampling system is located at the end of the rover’s 2 meter long robotic arm.
Perseverance is currently exploring the Citadelle location in Jezero Crater, which, billions of years ago, was once the site of an ancient lake. The specific target of the rover was a rock called Rochette, which is about the size of a briefcase and is part of a 800-meter ridge of rocky outcrops and boulders.
The mission team should receive more images of what is inside the sample tube by September 4. If the images taken while the Sun is at a better angle do not help the team determine if there is a sample, the tube will be sealed and the mobile vehicle will measure its volume.
If Perseverance is able to successfully collect samples from Mars, future missions will return them to Earth, and could reveal whether microbial life ever existed on Mars.