The Mars Perseverance rover sample collection had difficulty. NASA report rover stopped storing samples after debris partially blocked the bit conveyor (the device that stores drill bits and transfers sample tubes for internal processing). The rover encountered an unusual problem on December 29, but the mission team had to wait until January 6 to send orders to withdraw the drill, remove the robotic arm from the conveyor belt, and take pictures to verify what happened. .
Obstacles are said to be pebbles that fall out of the sample tube as they fall out of the helix, preventing the pebble from settling neatly in the conveyor belt. Storage is crucial to NASA’s plan to eventually return samples to Earth.
This is not the end of the sample collection. NASA/JPL Chief Sampling Engineer, Louise Jandura, noted that the carousel is designed to run with debris. However, this is the first time the team has had to clear debris, and Jandura said it would take operators as long as they needed to remove the pebbles in a “controlled and orderly manner.”
This is not the first time Perseverance has run into trouble. Lounger sample could not be collected on the first attempt, while the Ingenuity processing error on its sixth flight. All the same, this illustrates the challenges of the task – even a seemingly pedestrian task like storing a sample can go wrong in the wrong conditions. And when Mars is so far away, the fix isn’t necessarily easy or certain.
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