NASA thinks Mars rover succeeded in taking rock sample
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Its first effort earlier this month failed after the rock was too crumbly to withstand the robot's drill, but data received late on September 1 indicates the process worked this time around.
More images taken under better lighting are expected back by Saturday.
"The team determined a location, and selected and cored a viable and scientifically valuable rock," Jennifer Trosper, project manager at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, said in a statement.
"We will work through this small hiccup with the lighting conditions in the images and remain encouraged that there is sample in this tube."
The target was a briefcase-sized rock nicknamed "Rochette" from a ridgeline that is half a mile (900 meters) long.
Its turret-mounted scientific instruments are able to determine chemical and mineral composition and look for organic matter, as well as better characterize the planet's geological processes.
It uses a drill and a hollow coring bit at the end of its 7-foot-long (2-meter-long) robotic arm to extract samples slightly thicker than a pencil, which it stores under its belly.
NASA plans a mission to bring around 30 samples back to Earth in the 2030s, where scientists will be able to conduct more detailed analysis that might confirm there was microbial life.