The Mars Perseverance rover sample collection fell into a trap. OUR reports the rover stopped storing samples after the debris partially blocked the carousel (a device that stores drills and passes sample tubes for internal processing). Rover encountered an anomaly on Dec. 29, but the mission team had to wait until Jan. 6 to send orders to pull the drill bit, separate the robot arm from the carousel, and take pictures to check what happened.
Obstacles are believed to be gravel that fell out of the sample tube when it fell out of the core attachment, preventing that piece from neatly sitting in the carousel. Storage is key to NASA’s plans to eventually return the samples to Earth.
This is not the end of collecting samples. NASA / JPL’s chief sampling engineer, Louise Jandura, noted that the carousel was designed to work with debris. However, this is the first time the team has had to clean up debris, and Jandura said operators will need as much time as they need to dispose of the pebbles in a “controlled and orderly manner”.
This is not the first time Perseverance has gotten into trouble. Rover failed to collect samples during his first attempt, while helicopter Ingenuity there was an error in processing during his sixth flight. Still, this illustrates the challenges of the mission – even a seemingly walking task because storing a sample can go wrong in the wrong conditions. And when Mars is so far away, repairs aren’t necessarily easy or safe.
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