Why the Perseverance rover could not collect its first Martian sample – .

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Why the Perseverance rover could not collect its first Martian sample – .


In the wee hours of August 6, more than 90 engineers and scientists awaited the first data from the Perseverance drilling attempt. Information sent back to Earth by the rover showed that the rover’s core barrel drilled 2.8 inches (7 centimeters) into the rock. Perseverance also returned an image of the material around the borehole produced by the borehole.

It was all a good sign. The team tried to rest before the next set of data was available six hours later, according to Louise Jandura, chief engineer for sampling and caching at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, in California.

The following download from Perseverance confirmed that the sample tube had been sealed and safely stored on the rover, and the team were thrilled with the success of the maneuver.

Their excitement was short-lived, however, because when the rover returned the tube volume measurement along with an image of the tube, it was empty. That’s when the team went into “investigation mode,” Jandura wrote.

After two days of reviewing all the data, the team determined that the drilling had proceeded as planned. But there is no evidence of an intact core, or pieces of the core, on the Martian surface.

The measurements and images “lead us to believe that the coring activity in this unusual rock only resulted in powder / small fragments which were not retained due to their size and l absence of any significant piece of carrot. It seems the rock was not strong enough to produce a core, ”Jandura wrote.

Although there is material visible at the bottom of the core hole, as well as in the spoil heap around the hole, it is difficult to distinguish which material is from the actual core. The rock was probably too dry and crumbly to produce an intact core as Perseverance drilled through it, creating powder instead.

“Scientific and technical teams believe that the uniqueness of this rock and its material properties are the main factor in the difficulty of extracting a core,” Jandura wrote.

But Perseverance and his team are not giving up. The rover is moving to a new sampling site where the team expects to find sedimentary rocks, like the ones they tested while drilling on Earth before launch.

The Ingenuity helicopter has conducted and will continue to conduct aerial surveys in its area to help the team determine the next best site for sampling. The rover will make its next attempt in early September.

Two robots are changing the way we explore Mars

Although Perseverance was unable to collect a sample on its first outing, the team were encouraged that the rover “completed the first full self-contained sequence of our Mars sampling system in the past. time constraints of a single Sol ”, which is a day on Mars.

“The hardware worked as ordered, but the rock didn’t cooperate this time,” Jandura wrote. “It reminds me once again of the nature of exploration. A specific result is never guaranteed, no matter how hard you prepare. “

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