Pesky pebbles are hindering Persistence’s sampling activities, but NASA is working on a solution.
it’s part of the story, our series explores the Red Planet.
Mars has not been kind to our robotic explorers. This, And , and now it presents a new challenge for NASA’s Perseverance rover. Some pebble-sized debris is getting in the way of the machine’s rock sample collection system.
At first everything went smoothly. On December 29, Perseverance drilled into a rock called Isol and extracted a sample of it. “However, during the transfer of the sampled bit to the rover’s bit carousel (which stores the bits and passes the tube to the tube processing hardware inside the rover), our sensor indicated an anomaly,” said the lead for sampling. Engineer Lewis Jandura wrote and caching, in a blog post Friday.
The rover stopped its sampling activities after unusual resistance was detected during the sampling process. As the rover team expressed in a tweet on FridayAs a result, the debris is preventing the rover’s robotic arm from properly handing over the sample-filled tube for sealing and storage.
Perseverance is the first rover to attempt to collect samples of Mars in sealed tubes. It is an important part of a mission that is also looking for signs of ancient microbial life on the Red Planet. NASA is planning to send an ambitiousand bring them back to Earth for study.
The rover team ordered the machine to retreat, pulling out the drill bit and tube. It took some pictures along the way to help diagnose the problem. “These most recent downlinked images confirm that there are some pieces of pebble-sized debris inside the bit carousel,” Jandura wrote. NASA expects the pebbles to fall out of the sample tube.
Although the debris presents a challenge, there is nothing to panic just yet. Jandura said the designers of the Bit Carousel have considered this possibility, but it will take time to work through a solution that allows the Pebble to “exit in a controlled and orderly manner.”
NASA has proven resourceful when it comes to working through the Red Planet’s temper tantrums. The Persistence team plans to take it slow to ensure the sampling system is clear and ready for future work.