NASA Mars rover dumps pesky pebbles that were clogging its sampling procedure

These pebbles interfered with the Perseverance rover’s potential to stow absent a rock sample tube.


NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS

This tale is part of Welcome to Mars, our series checking out the crimson planet.

When Mars offers you pebbles, you give them again. 

NASA’s Perseverance rover ran into a problem with its sampling procedure late last yr when some pebbles got in the way of transferring a tube entire of rock into its inner managing technique. That intended the rover group experienced to get inventive with clearing the blockage. 

The concern happened together the rover’s bit carousel, which passes the sample tubes inside for processing. As a examination, NASA commanded the rover to rotate the carousel. It labored. The upper two pebbles had been kicked out. “This is excellent information, as these modest chunks of debris are thought to be the bring about of the unsuccessful transfer of the drill little bit and sample tube into the carousel again on Dec. 29,” deputy challenge manager Rick Welch wrote in a mission update on Friday.

NASA tweeted a nifty GIF displaying in advance of and following sights of the little bit carousel. You can see how the greatest pebbles are now cleared out.

There’s still a compact volume of debris left, but it could not bring about any concerns for the sampling procedure and these bits could tumble out when the rover moves about.

Jettisoning the pebbles was just one activity the rover desired to execute. The group also determined it would be intelligent to empty any remaining rock out of the sample tube so it could be reused for a clean sample if desired. This experiment took a bit of effort as the staff attempted distinct strategies of clearing the tube, such as aiming it towards the ground. “With the tube’s open up end continue to pointed towards the surface area, we fundamentally shook the heck out of it for 208 seconds – by suggests of the percussive purpose on the drill,” Welch claimed.

The rover examined its handiwork and spotted some rock bits on the floor. Abide by-up images present the tube can be reused, perhaps for re-sampling the authentic rock that kicked off the pebble trouble. 

Amassing rock samples is a critical portion of Perseverance’s get the job done. NASA is scheduling a future adhere to-up mission to collect the samples and carry them back again to Earth for examine.

The saga of the pebbles is a superior illustration of the versatility and creativeness necessary for a robot to successfully run on Mars. The surprising can transpire, like when the rover’s traveling helicopter companion Ingenuity was lately grounded thanks to undesirable weather conditions. With some rotations and some shimmies, it looks like Perseverance will get again to constructing its rock assortment quite quickly.