Rochette, the first Martian rock to arrive on Earth in 2030

The mission is jointly developed by NASA and the European Space Agency. The sample has been collected and sealed and will be shipped to our planet with the Mars Sample Return program.

The first rock sample from Mars will be shipped to Earth in 2030. It is a fragment of "Rochette," one of the rocks in the Jezero crater where the American rover Perseverance arrived in February 2021. The precious stone will be sent to our planet thanks to the complex program that are developing jointly NASA and ESA, the European Space Agency, the Mars Sample Return, whose departure is precisely scheduled in 9 years. For the first time it will be possible to study closely components of the Martian surface.

The recovery of Rochette, the first Martian stone

"I've got it!" (I got it), is the tweet written on the Perseverance rover's account after getting confirmation that the rock sample taken on Sept. 1 had been secured. The fragments were placed and sealed in one of 43 titanium tubes. The result marks a first step forward in the ambitious international mission that will conclude with the transfer to Earth of the stones from another planet. Science mission manager Thomas Zurbuchen called the event "a true historic moment."

The recovery of the rock sample on the Red Planet was not easy. Back in August, Perseverance had attempted to take a fragment, but the mission had failed after the recovered rock mysteriously disappeared. In fact the drill used in that occasion had pulverized the sample. A second attempt was made on September 1, carefully choosing the type of rock to be recovered. The non-optimal lighting conditions have not allowed to understand immediately if the fragment was really captured by the rover or not. The NASA technicians have therefore decided to wait a few days before giving the news of the retrieval. Only after receiving the crisp photographic feedback did the U.S. space agency announce that a sample, as thin as a pencil lead, had been recovered from the surface of Mars.

With more than 3.With more than 3,000 components, the Sampling and Caching System, the device used to collect and seal the sample, is the most complex mechanical instrument ever sent into space, "and we are proud - commented Larry James, acting director of the Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) - to see that the system is working well and has taken the first step in getting the samples to Earth." Perseverance, in the coming weeks, will continue to scour the area around Jezero crater and attempt to collect more Martian fragments.

Stefania Bernardini