The US space agency published images Friday of a small mound with a hole in its center next to the rover - the first ever dug into the Red Planet by a robot.
My first drill hole on Mars! Collecting and storing rock samples is a big and complex task, and this is a huge step. Next step: processing. #SamplingMarshttps://t.co/Ex1QDo3eC2 pic.twitter.com/JvrZcZ1NPm— NASA's Perseverance Mars Rover (@NASAPersevere) August 6, 2021
But data sent to Earth by the rover after its first attempt to collect a sample and seal it in a tube indicated no rock had been gathered.
"While this is not the 'hole-in-one' we hoped for, there is always risk with breaking new ground," said Thomas Zurbuchen, associate administrator for NASA's science mission directorate, in a statement.
"I'm confident we have the right team working this, and we will persevere toward a solution to ensure future success."
#SamplingMars is one of my most complicated tasks. Early pics and data show a successful drill hole, but no sample in the tube–something we've never seen in testing on Earth. Mars keeps surprising us. We're working through this new challenge. More to come. https://t.co/XyXBssvKe6 pic.twitter.com/VTNvMA2jqN— NASA's Perseverance Mars Rover (@NASAPersevere) August 6, 2021
The drill hole is the first step of a sampling process that is expected to take about 11 days, with the aim of looking for signs of ancient microbial life that may have been preserved in ancient lakebed deposits.
Scientists also hope to better understand Martian geology.
The mission took off from Florida a little over a year ago and Perseverance, which is the size of a large family car, landed on February 18 in the Jezero Crater.
Scientists believe the crater contained a deep lake 3.5 billion years ago, where the conditions may have been able to support extraterrestrial life.
NASA plans a mission to bring around 30 samples back to Earth in the 2030s, to be analyzed by instruments that are much more sophisticated than those that can be brought to Mars at present.