Mars Perseverance halts storage of rock samples due to debris

The Mars Perseverance rover sample collection has run into a problem. NASA reports that the rover stopped caching samples after debris partially blocked the drill carousel (the device that stores drill bits and passes sample tubes for internal processing). The rover encountered the anomaly on December 29, but the mission team had to wait until January 6 to send a command to extract the drill, detach the robot arm from the carousel, and take images to verify what happened. happened.

The obstacles are believed to be pebbles that fell from the sample tube when the coring bit was dropped, preventing that bit from sitting properly in the carousel. Storage is crucial to NASA’s plans to eventually return the samples to Earth.

This is not the end of sample collection. NASA/JPL Sampling Chief Engineer Louise Jandura noted that the carousel was designed to work with debris. This is the first time the team has had to clear debris, however, and Jandura said operators will take as long as necessary to clear the rocks in a “controlled and orderly” manner.

This isn’t the first time Perseverance has run into trouble. The rover failed to collect samples on its first attempt, while the Ingenuity helicopter suffered a processing error on its sixth flight. Still, it illustrates the challenges of the mission – even a seemingly mundane task as storing a sample can go wrong in poor conditions. And when Mars is so far away, fixes aren’t necessarily easy or certain.

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