NASA’s Perseverance Mars rover ran into a problem during its first attempt to sample.
NASA’S MARS ROVER PERSEVERANCE READY TO BEGIN THE SAMPLING PROCESS
“#SamplingMars is one of my most complicated jobs. The first photos and data show a successful drill hole, but no sample in the tube – something we have never seen in tests on Earth, ”the rover’s Twitter account announced Friday. “Mars continues to surprise us. We are working on this new challenge. “
In a statement from the agency, the Southern California-based Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL), which is leading the mission, wrote that data returned to Earth after Perseverance’s first rock sampling attempt indicated that ” no rock had been collected ”.
The 2,260-pound rover carries 43 titanium sample tubes on its mission to search for interesting rocks and sediment – potentially leading to signs of ancient microbial life on the Red Planet – and explores Jezero Crater: The Region where it first landed in February.
“While this is not the ‘hole in one’ we were hoping for, there is always risk to innovate,” said Thomas Zurbuchen, associate administrator of NASA’s Directorate of Science Missions in Washington, DC, in a press release. “I am confident that we have the right team to work on this, and we will push for a solution to ensure future success. “
JPL notes that Perseverance’s sampling and caching system uses a “hollow core drill bit and impact drill” at the end of its long robotic arm to extract samples.
The drill and trephine were engaged as intended on its first attempt and the sample tube was processed as intended.
“One of the steps that occurs after placing a probe in the collection tube is to measure the volume of the sample,” explained Jessica Samuels, head of the surface mission of Perseverance, in more detail. “The probe did not meet the expected resistance that would be there if a sample were inside the tube. “
The Perseverance team is working to create an intervention team to analyze the data, including taking close-ups of the borehole with the WATSON camera (wide-angle topographic sensor for operations and engineering) of the robotic arm. .
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The rover examines two units in the area containing the “oldest and deepest exposed bedrock layers”, named “Crater Floor Fractured Rough” and “Séítah”.
While the “Crater Floor Fractured Rough” sits at the bottom of the crater, “Séítah” features ridges, layers of rocks and sand dunes.
“The initial idea is that the empty tube is more likely due to the rock target not reacting as we expected during coring, and less likely to a hardware problem with the sampling and setting system. cache, ”Jennifer Trosper, Project Manager for Perseverance at JPL. , noted. “Over the next few days, the team will be spending more time analyzing the data we have and acquiring additional diagnostic data to help understand the root cause of the empty tube. “
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JPL noted that previous NASA missions to Mars have “encountered surprising properties of rocks and regoliths during sample collection and other activities.”
The agency hopes to fill eight of its sample tubes before Perseverance returns to its landing site and prepares to travel to the Jezero Crater Delta region for its second science campaign.