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Sunday September 26th, 2021 2:04AM

NASA's newest Mars rover snags 1st rock sample for return

By The Associated Press
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CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. (AP) — NASA’s newest Mars rover has successfully collected its first rock sample for return to Earth, after last month’s attempt came up empty.

The Perseverance rover's chief engineer, Adam Steltzner, called it a perfect core sample.

"I’ve never been more happy to see a hole in a rock," he tweeted Thursday.

A month ago, Perseverance drilled into much softer rock, and the sample crumbled and didn't get inside the titanium tube. The rover drove a half-mile to a better sampling spot to try again. Team members analyzed data and pictures before declaring success.

Perseverance arrived in February at Mars' Jezero Crater — believed to be the home of a lush lakebed and river delta billions of years ago — in search of rocks that might hold evidence of ancient life. NASA plans to launch more spacecraft to retrieve the samples collected by Perseverance; engineers are hoping to return as many as three dozen samples in about a decade.

"Be patient, little sample, your journey is about to begin," Steltzner said.

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The Associated Press Health and Science Department receives support from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute’s Department of Science Education. The AP is solely responsible for all content.

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