A small pile of pebbles interferes with the Perseverance rover.
The rover, which is collecting rock samples for a possible return to Earth, began to struggle on Dec. 29 after extracting a core from a rock the mission team named Issol.
According to a NASA blog, the problem is in the device that moves the drill bit and sample from the rover’s drill arm to a carousel inside the rover’s chassis for storage.
As it moved, sensors inside the rover detected more than usual friction at an unexpected location in the process.
The rover shut down and sent a warning to Earth. Operators asked the rover for more data, but it took about a week for Perseverance to respond due to a discrepancy between Martian and Earth days, limiting data rates.
Once the data arrived, the team ordered the rover to act like it was itself, removing the drill bit and undocking its drill arm to photograph its innards.
The resulting images revealed the problem: a small pile of pebbles inside the carousel. These pieces of debris fell off the sample during the transfer process, blocking the correct placement of the drill bit inside the bit 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 throws at us — just the last one,” wrote Louise Jandura, chief sampling and caching engineer at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, in a blog post.
“One thing we have found is that when an engineering challenge is hundreds of millions of miles away (Mars is currently 215 million miles from Earth, [346 million kilometers]), you should take your time and be careful. We’re going to do it here,” she added.
The Perseverance rover landed on Mars on February 18, 2021. He explores Jezero Crater, which was once a river delta.
The goal is to take rock and soil samples to evaluate the crater for signs that it once contained life. The rover has equipment on board that can do some analysis, but it is hoped that a future Mars mission will be able to extract and return the rover’s rock samples to Earth.
This isn’t the first time the Perseverance team has had to overcome sampling issues. The rover’s first attempt to collect a rock sample failed. But soon the rover was able to quickly collect a couple of rock samples.
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This article was originally published by Live Science. Read the original article here.