NASA’s Mars rover, Perseverance, deposited its first sample of rocks on the Red Planet’s surface Wednesday for an eventual return to Earth.
The rover placed a titanium tube containing the rock sample as part of NASA’s Mars Sample Return campaign.
The deposit is one of more than a dozen tubes that will be placed at the location – dubbed “Three Forks” – over the next two months.
Perseverance has been taking duplicate samples from rock targets the mission selects, NASA said.
The rover will later deliver samples to a robotic lander that will use a robotic arm to place the samples in a containment capsule aboard a small rocket. The rock will blast off into Mars’ orbit and deliver the samples to another spacecraft that will return the samples to Earth.
The sample, NASA says, will serve as a backup if the rover can’t deliver its sample. In that scenario, Sample Recovery Helicopters will be deployed to finish the job.
“Seeing our first sample on the ground is a great capstone to our prime mission period, which ends on Jan. 6,” Rick Welch, Perseverance’s deputy project manager at JPL, said in a statement. “It’s a nice alignment that, just as we’re starting our cache, we’re also closing this first chapter of the mission.”