According to previous NASA statements, the drill hole is just one step of a sampling process that will take about 11 days in total, which should mean that if all goes well, the entire procedure will be completed just in time for the rover to celebrate six months on Mars on Feb. 18.
“My first drill hole on Mars!” the mission’s Twitter account announced on Friday (Aug. 6) with an image of the hole. “Collecting and storing rock samples is a big and complex task, and this is a huge step. Next step: processing.”
Perseverance will explore what scientists have dubbed Jezero Crater, which they believe was once a lakebed billions of years ago, in order to study the geology and look for traces of long-lost life on Mars.
Drilling on Mars isn’t new to Perseverance; its predecessor, the car-sized rover Curiosity, has done it a few dozen times during its nine years on the Red Planet. However, Curiosity chose rocks to drill only for the purposes of studying with its own instruments. Perseverance, on the other hand, will analyze the samples as well as pack them away for transport to Earth’s laboratories on a future mission.
In the lead-up to drilling, the mission team announced that this rock sample may be the oldest Perseverance collects throughout the course of its work. Scientists are particularly enthusiastic about the new sample because it is unclear whether the rock is volcanic or formed by layers of lakebed deposits.