Perseverance rover Photograph:( AFP )
The samples were taken on September 1 but NASA was initially unsure whether Preseverance had held on to it
NASA's Perseverance rover has collected its first Mars rock samples, NASA confirmed on Monday. The samples will be brought back to Earth during future missions.
"I've got it!" the space agency tweeted, alongside a photograph of a rock core slightly thicker than a pencil inside a sample tube.
The sample was collected on September 1 but NASA was initially unsure as to whether the rover had held on to the samples. Initial images taken in poor light were unclear.
The rover took fresh photo and then transeferred the tube to the rover's interior for further measurements and imaging. The container was then sealed.
"This is a momentous achievement and I can't wait to see the incredible discoveries produced by Perseverance and our team," NASA administrator Bill Nelson said in a statement.
Thomas Zurbuchen, associate administrator for science, likened the achievement to the first samples of rock taken from the Moon, which are still invaluable to researchers today.
Sampling and caching systme on board Preseverance rover is the most complex mechanism ever sent to space. There are over 3000 parts.
A briefcase-sized rock nicknamed "Rochette" was its first target.
Perseverance uses a drill and a hollow coring bit at the end of its 7-foot-long (2-meter-long) robotic arm to extract samples.
After coring the rock, the rover vibrated the drill bit and tube for one second, five separate times.
This procedure is called "percuss to ingest" and is meant to clear the lip of the tube of residual material, and cause the sample to slide down the tube.
Perseverance landed on an ancient lake bed called the Jezero Crater in February, on a mission to search for signs of ancient microbial life using a suite of sophisticated instruments mounted on its turret.
It is also trying to better characterize the Red Planet's geology and past climate.
(With inputs from agencies)