The Perseverance rover has started taking a piece of rock from Mars, NASA announced on Friday, the first of about 30 samples that will, in several years, be brought back to Earth for analysis.
The US space agency released photographs clearly showing, next to the vehicle’s shadow, a small mound with a hole in its center – the first the robot made on the red planet.
“The sample collection has started! », Exclaimed on Twitter the director for Science of the American space agency, Thomas Zurbuchen.
In total, the process of collecting a sample – the size of a chalk and sealed in an airtight tube – should take 11 days.
The objective: to look for signs of ancient life, such as traces of microbial life fossilized in the rocks, but also to better understand Martian geology.
To do this, the Perseverance rover will first deploy its two-meter articulated arm. Then use an abrasive tool to clean the surface of the rocks which will be analyzed by the instruments installed on its turret, in particular an ultra sophisticated camera called SuperCam, equipped with a laser.
The mission took off from Florida just over a year ago.
The module, which is the size of a large SUV, then landed on February 18 in the Jezero crater, which scientists believe housed a deep lake 3.5 billion years ago. . An environment that could have created the conditions necessary for extraterrestrial life.
NASA is planning a mission to bring the samples back to Earth in the 2030s so that they can be analyzed by much more sophisticated instruments than those that can be brought to Mars today.