Why Perseverance's First Mars Drilling Attempt Came Up Empty

Far from a failure, the sampling might actually offer tantalizing clues about the geology—and potential past life—of the Red Planet.

Last week, NASA’s Perseverance rover shot for a new milestone in the search for extraterrestrial life: Drilling into Mars to extract a plug of rock, which will eventually get fired back to Earth for scientists to study. Data sent to NASA scientists early on August 6 indicated a victory—the robot had indeed drilled into the Red Planet, and a photo even showed a dust pile around the borehole.

“What followed later in the morning was a rollercoaster of emotions,” wrote Louise Jandura, chief engineer for sampling and caching at NASA’s Jet

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