NASA says its Mars Rover Perseverance, which has been on a rock sample collection mission on the Red Planet, is going to do something never done before.
NASA Mars Rover Perseverance has been tasked with the mission to collect rock samples to examine the Red Planet’s composition and discover any rare elements. But recently, the Mars Rover faced an unexpected challenge – risk mission failure. Now, fixing problems and troubleshooting is nothing new for NASA. The Mars mission team that handles the robots is quite adept at handling these issues as the atmosphere and the various terrain based obstacles regularly mess with them.
Then what’s special this time? The challenge Perseverance faced this time is more complicated than ever. So, to fix it, the NASA Mars Rover team has decided to take a creative route to fix it and make the robot do something it has never done before.
Unexpected troubles for NASA Mars Rover Perseverance
NASA Mars Rover Perseverance has drilled and extracted a sample in December from a rock which has been named Issole. But strangely, it was not able to handover the sample from its arm to the carousel. A carousel is a component with an opening on the Rover’s body where Perseverance puts in 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 pebbles blocking the opening. Perseverance first has to clear the debris out and only then it can handover the sample for processing. But Mars does not have gravitational pull like Earth and as the Rover also lacks enough moving parts. It is not as simple as shaking it off. In fact, it is far tougher to order the Mars Rover to let something go simply because it is so valuable. It will be a historic first, so to speak.
Stuck in a bit of a fix,Mars Rover Perseverance team has come up with a bold and unique solution comprising a series of steps.
NASA Mars Rover Perseverance attempts never done before move
Maneuvering the first step, the Rover’s camera was pointed towards the ground to take a clear look at the surroundings. This was done to record any changes in the surface near it while clearing out the pebbles.
The next step involves an unprecedented move. NASA’s Mars Rover Perseverance is going to dump the content from its robotic arm to the surface of the planet. Why is it unprecedented? It’s because the rock samples are very important cargo for NASA. The entire mission is based on how many rock samples can be processed and collected so a future mission can bring them back to Earth. Additionally, NASA is not sure how much sample is stored in the Rover. If the current sample is not enough, Perseverance might be sent back to Issole to collect a bigger sample.
“Simply put, we are returning the remaining contents of Sample Tube 261 (our latest cored-rock sample) back to its planet of origin,” said Jennifer Trosper, project manager at NASA’s jet propulsion laboratory, in an update.
The dumping process is expected to be simple enough. NASA’s Mars Rover Perseverance will turn the open end of its collection arm towards the ground and let it out. However, letting go of such a precious sample while the Rover is operating with limited resources is surely going to be a severe setback for the team.
The next steps will see NASA ordering a series of small movements, causing the Mars Rover Perseverance to perform some rotation tests. The rotations are expected to clear out the bit carousel so the mission can resume as per the schedule.
NASA should know about the effect of the movements on the carousel by next week.