A small pile of pebbles interferes with the work of the Perseverance Mars rover.
The rover, which is collecting rock samples for a possible return to Earth, began the ordeal on Dec. 29, after pulling a core out of a rock the mission team called “Issole.”
According to a NASA blog, the problem occurred in a device that carries a drill bit and sample from the rover’s drilling arm to a carousel inside the rover’s storage chassis.
During transmission, sensors inside the rover recorded friction greater than normal at an unexpected point in the process.
The Rover shut down and sent a warning back to Earth. Operators requested more data from the rover, but it took Perseverance about a week to respond due to a mismatch between Martian and Earth days, which limits the speed of data transfer.
Once the data arrived, the team ordered the rover to act as its own mechanic by removing the drill and unbuttoning the drilling arm to photograph its own interior.
The resulting images revealed a problem: a small pile of pebbles inside the carousel. These pieces of debris fell off the specimen during the transfer process, blocking the drill to properly sit inside the carousel.
The carousel is designed to work even in the presence of some debris, but NASA operators are taking their time to find a solution.
“This is not the first curve Mars has thrown at us – just the latest,” wrote Louise Jandura, chief sampling and caching engineer at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, in a blog post.
“One thing we’ve discovered is that when the engineering challenge is hundreds of millions of miles away (Mars is currently 215 million miles from Earth [346 million kilometers]), it pays to take the time and be thorough. We will do that here, ”she added.
The Rover Perseverance landed on Mars on February 18, 2021. He is exploring Lake Crater, which was once a river delta.
The goal is to take samples of rocks and soil to assess the signs in the crater that there was once life in it. The rover has equipment that can do some analysis on board, but hopefully a future mission to Mars will be able to retrieve and return rocker rock samples to Earth.
This is not the first time the Perseverance team has had to overcome a sampling problem. The rover’s first attempt to collect a rock sample failed. But the rover soon managed to collect a couple of rock samples in a quick sequence.
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This article was originally published by Live Science. Read the original article here.