As part of its ongoing mission to explore Mars for signs of life, NASA‘s Perseverance rover just drilled a new hole into the planet. The idea of life on Mars is one that’s fascinated all kinds of people for years. The planet is relatively close to us, evidence suggests it used to have an Earth-like environment, and it’s something that’s been brought up in science fiction for decades. While Mars likely never had little green men roaming the planet, there’s a strong possibility small lifeforms may have previously existed there.
In an effort to answer that question once and for all, NASA launched the Perseverance rover in July 2020. After landing on Mars this past February, Perseverance (and its Ingenuity helicopter companion) has been roaming the Martian surface for signs of ancient life. Over the past few months, Perseverance has explored new areas of the planet, traveled on its own with an autopilot system, and sent back endless streams of stunning photos.
Perseverance’s latest task? Drilling a hole into a Mars rock. Early in the morning on September 2, the Perseverance Twitter account shared the above photo with the caption, “I’ve drilled into my rock target, and my team will be looking at more data and images to confirm if we were able to get and retain an intact core.” The picture showcases a dusty and rock-filled ground, along with the main rock in question. It appears fairly large, has a beautiful pattern/reflection, and now dons a hole it didn’t have before.
Having Perseverance drill a hole is impressive enough on its own — but there’s a much more important reason why it’s doing this in the first place. If the Perseverance team deems the rock suitable, Perseverance’s next task will be to insert a special tube and collect samples from inside the rock. Should it succeed, this will mark the first time rock samples have been collected on another planet and (hopefully) returned back to Earth.
This also isn’t the first time Perseverance has attempted such a task. NASA had hoped to collect the first Mars rock sample back in August. Unfortunately, something went wrong with Perseverance’s collection tube and the attempt failed. A little under a month since that happened, Perseverance is ready to give it another shot. This is a big moment for NASA and the space community as a whole. Here’s to hoping this latest collection attempt goes smoother than the last one!