The U.S. space agency on Friday will brief the media on the initial analysis of the first sample of a Martian rock collected by its Perseverance rover earlier this week.
NASA confirmed the rover had collected the rock, releasing a picture of the sample inside a collection tube. The rover made a first attempt to collect a sample in early August, but the rock crumbled during the drilling and coring process.
The rover moved to a different location earlier this month where the team selected a rock that held up better.
Over the past week, scientists have been using Perseverance's instruments to analyze the sample and they are expected to reveal what they have discovered at Friday's briefing.
Former NASA research director Scott Hubbard — now a professor at Stanford University — told the Associated Press the collection "is a huge step forward in what the science community has wanted for more than 50 years, which is to bring samples back from the Red Planet."
He said the sample appears to be one that could be dated, a main goal of collecting such rocks, along with looking for evidence of past or present biological life. A key objective for Perseverance's mission on Mars is astrobiology, including the search for signs of ancient microbial life.
The plan is for subsequent NASA missions, in cooperation with the European Space Agency, to send spacecraft to Mars to collect Perseverance's sealed samples from the surface and bring them to Earth for in-depth analysis.
Perseverance landed in Jezero Crater February 18, and the rover team kicked off the science phase of its mission June 1.
Some information for this report came from the Associated Press.