NASA’s Perseverance rover got here up with a curious outcome on its first sampling attempt final week, when the primary tube retrieved by the rover turned up empty. This sudden end result is a minor setback — however not one thing scientists foresaw whereas working via the sampling course of right here on Earth. Otherwise, although, the process went as deliberate. Wide-field views present a ensuing borehole in one of many flat paver stone rocks on the Crater Floor Fractured Rough website in Jezero Crater.
The First Collection
The sampling course of is autonomous, that means that after a pattern website is chosen the rover carries out the operation on its personal. 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.
However, after the core is positioned within the tube, the probe measures the amount of the pattern collected. And on this primary try, the probe didn’t encounter the resistance engineers anticipated to see from a stuffed tube, suggesting that it was in actual fact, empty. The view from the Sampling and Caching System digicam backs up this assertion:
“While this is not the ‘hole-in-one’ we hoped for, there is always risk with breaking new ground,” says Thomas Zurbuchen (NASA-Science Mission Directorate) in a latest press release. “I’m confident we have the right team working this, and we will persevere toward a solution to ensure future success.”
The rover carries 43 titanium pattern tubes, together with 5 empty ‘witness tubes,’ used to characterize the baseline setting at every assortment website. To achieve success, the crew needs to gather a minimal of 20 stuffed pattern tubes from 4 separate websites for return to Earth.
#SamplingMars is certainly one of my most complex duties. Early pics and knowledge present a profitable drill hole, however no pattern within the tube–one thing we’ve by no means seen in testing on Earth. Mars retains stunning us. We’re working via this new problem. More to return. https://t.co/XyXBssvKe6 pic.twitter.com/VTNvMA2jqN
— NASA’s Perseverance Mars Rover (@NASAPersevere) August 6, 2021
The advanced caching system consists of a secondary sample-handling arm that strikes the collected cores to the Adaptive Caching Assembly (ACA) on the underside of the rover. In the ACA, the samples are imaged, measured for quantity, and sealed. The ACA is among the most subtle and complicated mechanisms ever fielded in spaceflight.
Collecting a rock pattern from the present website is essential and would go a lengthy way in the direction of courting the location to a excessive diploma of accuracy. Eventually, 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. Back in 2008, NASA’s Phoenix lander encountered “sticky” soil throughout makes an attempt to maneuver a clump to the lander for testing. More just lately, Mars InSight encountered drilling problems, forcing the crew to halt plans to position the warmth probe (aka, the “mole”) at its required depth for science operations.
The crew is now wanting on the knowledge and can use the WATSON instrument on the tip of the sampling arm to take a look at the borehole to see what may need occurred.
“The initial thinking is that the empty tube is more likely a result of the rock target not reacting the way we expected during coring, and less likely a hardware issue with the Sampling and Caching System,” says Jennifer Trosper (NASA/JPL). “Over the next few days, the team will be spending more time analyzing the data we have, and also acquiring some additional diagnostic data to support understanding the root cause for the empty tube.”
Meanwhile, the Ingenuity helicopter accomplished its eleventh profitable flight, 380 meters downrange. Ingenuity is proving to be a priceless asset in its new operational part, scouting the treacherous terrain forward of the Perseverance rover.
The subsequent website that the Perseverance rover may pattern is the close by Séítah (Navajo for “among the sand”) area, which options 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.
Maybe Bruce Willis isn’t wanted simply but. For now, we’ll see what the Mars Perseverance crew comes up with. There are a lot of pattern tubes left.