NASA has confirmed the successful collection of the Perseverance rover's first rock sample of Mars, marking a major milestone in the space agency's mission on the Red Planet.
The Perseverance rover's successful maneuver comes after the first sampling attempt failed in August when a weak, eroded rock on the crater floor crumbled.
After the robot drilled into a thick slab dubbed "Rochette," there was some concern that the core might have been dropped.
The team tried again, this time grabbing a finger-sized cylinder of more durable rock from a boulder along a nearly half-mile-long ridge.
"For all of NASA science, this is truly a historic moment," Thomas Zurbuchen, NASA's associate administrator for science, said in a press release.
The core is the first rock section ever obtained on another planet with the intention of being returned to Earth. The sample is safely inside the mechanism, based on the new photos of the drill head.
In February, Perseverance landed in the Jezero Crater on Mars. The robot has driven more than 1.2 miles from its landing spot to a slightly higher ridge known as the Citadelle.
Rochette was chosen as the target for the latest drilling attempt by the Perseverance team.
A caching device on the robot will collect a finger-sized core of rock cut by the drill and place it in a titanium tube. However, before sealing this cylinder, the rover will photograph its contents.
It was at this point, in early August, during a first sampling effort, that Perseverance scientists realized they had nothing in the tube; the coring mechanism had crushed the rock into powder, which had subsequently fallen back on the ground around the drill hole.
The mission team was pleased, however, by the first images downlinked by Perseverance on Thursday, which looked to show rocky material from Rochette in the corer head at the cylinder's entrance. The most recent images confirm this.
Perseverance is presently exploring the rocky outcrops and boulders of "Artuby," a 900-meter-long ridgeline that separates two geologic units believed to hold Jezero Crater's deepest and oldest exposed bedrock layers.
The rover's objective involves examining the Jezero region to understand the geology and ancient habitability of the area, as well as characterizing the previous climate.