NASA's Perseverance Rover Drills Its First Hole on Mars in New Milestone

NASA's Mars Perseverance rover has drilled its first ever hole on the surface of the red planet in order to obtain valuable rock samples.

A picture of the drill hole was shared via the rover's official Twitter account early on Friday morning EDT.

The tweet read: "My first drill hole on Mars! Collecting and storing rock samples is a big and complex task, and this is a huge step."

More raw images of the drill hole, which can be clearly seen as a cone of dust on the surface, have been uploaded to NASA's website and can be seen below.

In Focus

Perseverance drill hole

Perseverance's drill hole can be clearly seen on the Martian surface in this image taken August 6.
Launch Slideshow 3 PHOTOS

Next, the rover will begin processing rock samples from the surface.

This latest milestone for Perseverance was much anticipated. The drill hole means Perseverance is now working on the first of dozens of rock samples that NASA hopes will eventually be brought back to Earth for further study in future missions.

No samples from another planet have ever been returned back to Earth in the history of spaceflight.

In a blog post ahead of the sample collection, Louise Jandura, chief engineer for sampling at NASA, said she had been thinking about this moment for nearly eight years.

"The team never ceases to amaze me," she said. "The data will begin to trickle in during the middle of the night and the team will be up anxiously awaiting the first bits of information on how things have gone up to that point."

If all goes to plan, the sample collected from the drill hole will be enclosed in a hermetically sealed tube. NASA expects to provide an update on the sample later on Friday afternoon.

Samples will help scientists probe Mars' history further than ever before, including the planet's potential for past life.

Researchers have been working towards collecting Mars samples for decades, Bobby Braun, director for planetary science at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, wrote in a NASA article on Thursday. He called Friday's sample "that first jewel to be stored in the Perseverance treasure chest."

Braun said: "Want to know specifically how old Mars is? Gotta bring back samples. How about the detailed history of water, climate, or the potential for past life on Mars? Requires sample analysis in a lab here on Earth."

While the drill hole marks a new milestone for Perseverance, it is not unprecedented. NASA's Curiosity rover, which landed on Mars in August 2012, has also collected several rock and soil samples during its time on the red planet.

However, what makes Perseverance's effort different is that the rocks will be carefully stored so that they can be returned to Earth in pristine condition and studied more extensively.