NASA says its Mars Rover Perseverance, which took part in a mission to collect rock samples on the Red Planet, will do something never done before.
NASA’s Mars Rover Perseverance was tasked with collecting rock samples to examine the composition of the Red Planet and discover rare elements. But recently, the Mars Rover was faced with an unexpected challenge: risking mission failure. Now, problem solving and troubleshooting is nothing new to NASA. The Mars mission team that manages the robots is quite adept at handling these issues as the atmosphere and various terrain-based obstacles regularly bother them.
So what’s special this time around? The challenge Perseverance faced this time around is more complicated than ever. So to fix it, the NASA Mars Rover team decided to take a creative route to fixing it and making the robot do something it’s never done before.
Unexpected problems for NASA Mars Rover Perseverance
NASA’s Mars Rover Perseverance drilled and extracted a sample in December from a rock that has been named Issole. But strangely, he was unable to deliver the sample from his arm to the carousel. A carousel is a component with an opening on the rover’s body where Perseverance places the collected sample and a tube passes it into the rover for processing.
The Rover failed to transfer the sample to the carousel due to a group of rocks blocking the opening. Perseverance must first remove the debris and only then can it hand over the sample for processing. But Mars doesn’t have a gravitational pull like Earth does, and the Rover also lacks enough moving parts. It’s not as simple as getting rid of it. In fact, it’s much harder to order the Mars Rover to let something pass just because it’s so valuable. This will be a historic first, so to speak.
Stuck in a tight spot, the Mars Rover Perseverance team came up with a bold and unique solution that included a series of steps.
NASA’s Mars Rover Persistence Attempts Never Made Before Move
While maneuvering the first step, the Rover’s camera was pointed down to get a clear view of the surroundings. This was done to register any changes in the nearby surface while clearing the pebbles.
The next step involves unprecedented movement. NASA’s Mars Rover Perseverance will dump the contents of its robotic arm onto the planet’s surface. Why is this unique? This is because rock samples are very important cargo for NASA. The whole mission is based on how many rock samples can be processed and collected so that a future mission can bring them back to Earth. Additionally, NASA is unsure of the amount of samples stored in the Rover. If the current sample is not sufficient, Perseverance could be sent back to Issole to collect a larger sample.
“Put simply, we are returning the remaining contents of Sample Tube 261 (our last excavated rock sample) to its home planet,” said Jennifer Trosper, project manager at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, in an update.
The dumping process should be quite simple. NASA’s Mars Rover Perseverance will point the open end of its collection arm toward the ground and let it out. However, giving up such a valuable sample while the Rover is operating with limited resources will surely be a serious setback for the team.
The next steps will see NASA command a series of small movements, requiring the Mars Rover Perseverance to perform spin tests. Rotations should clear the bit carousel so the mission can resume on schedule.
NASA should know the effect of the movements on the carousel by next week.