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NASA Nerds Out Over Mars Rover's Lucky 13th Rock Sample

The small sample could one day be brought back to Earth for close-up study.

Amanda Kooser
Freelance writer Amanda C. Kooser covers gadgets and tech news with a twist for CNET. When not wallowing in weird gear and iPad apps for cats, she can be found tinkering with her 1956 DeSoto.
Amanda Kooser
2 min read
Part of the Perseverance rover's sampling system is shown holding a tiny cylinder of rock.

The rover snapped this view of its 13th rock core sample on Oct. 2, 2022.


A dainty cylinder of pencil-width rock is a great reason to celebrate. NASA's Perseverance rover has collected its 13th core sample in the Jezero Crater on Mars. Like other recent samples in its collection, this one could tell us about the history of water and perhaps even microbial life on the red planet.

"A beautiful site for collecting lucky rock core #13!" NASA tweeted on Tuesday. "Currently nerding out over this fine-grained sample, and aiming to get another like it from this area." The rover team shared images of the rock and the small sample safely tucked into a tube.

The rover has been collecting rock samples in pairs with the aim of having extras if needed. NASA is developing the Mars Sample Return mission to fetch Percy's rock collection and bring it back to Earth for study.

The core sample is extra sweet since an earlier attempt at examining a fine-grained rock went awry in September. Percy tried to abrade a patch of an intriguing rock, but accidentally broke it instead. That meant the rock couldn't be used for drilling and sampling. 

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The rover team didn't cry over the cracked rock, though. "While we had to forgo abrasion proximity science on this target, we gained information about the cohesiveness and strength of the rock and had the opportunity to observe and compare both freshly broken and weathered rock surfaces," wrote team member Eleanor Moreland of Rice University in a mission update last week. The rover's handlers went to work to find a new sampling site. 

Perseverance is investigating an ancient river delta region that has scientists particularly excited because it may be the mission's best chance for finding evidence of past microbial life. The rover's onboard laboratory capabilities have already revealed the presence of organic matter in rocks from this area. It's an exciting initial discovery, but not yet a confirmation of ancient life.

The latest core sample is one more reason to get hyped for getting those rocks back to Earth.