#astronomy Mars Perseverance Rover Hits a Snag on First Sampling Try – Sky & Telescope

August 12, 2021 - Comment

A view of the primary pattern gap drilled at Crater Ground Fractured Tough. NASA / JPL-Caltech NASA’s Perseverance rover got here up with a curious end result on its first sampling try final week, when the primary tube retrieved by the rover turned up empty. This surprising final result is a minor setback — however


Perseverance first sample attemptA view of the primary pattern gap drilled at Crater Ground Fractured Tough.
NASA / JPL-Caltech

NASA’s Perseverance rover got here up with a curious end result on its first sampling try final week, when the primary tube retrieved by the rover turned up empty. This surprising final result is a minor setback — however not one thing scientists foresaw whereas working by means of the sampling course of right here on Earth. In any other case, although, the process went as deliberate. Broad-field views present a ensuing borehole in one of many flat paver stone rocks on the Crater Ground Fractured Tough website in Jezero Crater.

The First Assortment

The sampling course of is autonomous, that means that after a pattern website is chosen the rover carries out the operation by itself. The Sampling and Caching System labored as anticipated final week: The system makes use of a percussive drill together with a hole coring bit on the finish of its 2-meter-long (7 ft) robotic arm to gather chalk-sized pattern cores.

Nevertheless, after the core is positioned within the tube, the probe measures the quantity of the pattern collected. And on this primary try, the probe didn’t encounter the resistance engineers anticipated to see from a crammed tube, suggesting that it was actually, empty. The view from the Sampling and Caching System digicam backs up this assertion:

Empty sample tubeThe view from the caching system’s digicam, which regarded down an empty pattern tube after the primary assortment try.
NASA / JPL-Caltech

“Whereas this isn’t the ‘hole-in-one’ we hoped for, there may be at all times threat with breaking new floor,” says Thomas Zurbuchen (NASA-Science Mission Directorate) in a current press launch. “I’m assured we now have the correct group working this, and we’ll persevere towards an answer to make sure future success.”

The rover carries 43 titanium pattern tubes, together with 5 empty ‘witness tubes,’ used to characterize the baseline surroundings at every assortment website. To achieve success, the group needs to gather a minimal of 20 crammed pattern tubes from 4 separate websites for return to Earth.

#SamplingMars is certainly one of my most intricate duties. Early pics and knowledge present a profitable drill gap, however no pattern within the tube–one thing we’ve by no means seen in testing on Earth. Mars retains shocking us. We’re working by means of this new problem. Extra to come back. https://t.co/XyXBssvKe6 pic.twitter.com/VTNvMA2jqN

— NASA’s Perseverance Mars Rover (@NASAPersevere) August 6, 2021

The advanced caching system features a secondary sample-handling arm that strikes the collected cores to the Adaptive Caching Meeting (ACA) on the underside of the rover. Within the ACA, the samples are imaged, measured for quantity, and sealed. The ACA is without doubt one of the most subtle and complicated mechanisms ever fielded in spaceflight.

Accumulating a rock pattern from the present website is essential and would go a good distance in the direction of relationship the positioning to a excessive diploma of accuracy. Ultimately, the ACA will deposit its samples on the Martian floor for later assortment. A future mission will return the samples to Earth someday within the coming decade.

Drilling on Mars

The floor of Mars has thwarted makes an attempt to dig into it earlier than. Again in 2008, NASA’s Phoenix lander encountered “sticky” soil throughout makes an attempt to maneuver a clump to the lander for testing. Extra not too long ago, Mars InSight encountered drilling issues, forcing the group to halt plans to position the warmth probe (aka, the “mole”) at its required depth for science operations.

The group is now trying on the knowledge and can use the WATSON instrument on the tip of the sampling arm to have a look at the borehole to see what might need occurred.

“The preliminary considering is that the empty tube is extra seemingly a results of the rock goal not reacting the way in which we anticipated throughout coring, and fewer seemingly a challenge with the Sampling and Caching System,” says Jennifer Trosper (NASA/JPL). “Over the subsequent few days, the group can be spending extra time analyzing the info we now have, and in addition buying some further diagnostic knowledge to assist understanding the basis trigger for the empty tube.”

In the meantime, the Ingenuity helicopter accomplished its 11th profitable flight, 380 meters downrange. Ingenuity is proving to be a beneficial asset in its new operational section, scouting the treacherous terrain forward of the Perseverance rover.

Ingenuity helicopter's view of Mars duneIngenuity appears out over the Mars sand dune area throughout flight 11.
NASA / JPL-Caltech

The following website that the Perseverance rover might pattern is the close by Séítah (Navajo for “among the many sand”) area, which incorporates a mixture of bedrock, layered sediment, and sand dunes. From there, mission planners will head previous the unique Octavia E. Butler touchdown website to the intriguing Neretva Vallis stream channel.

Perhaps Bruce Willis isn’t wanted simply but. For now, we’ll see what the Mars Perseverance group comes up with. There are many pattern tubes left.

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