The hole Perseverance drilled in the ground. Credit: NASA / JPL-Caltech

NASA Fails Sample Collection on Mars—10 Things You Need to Know

Experts will conduct data analysis to understand the cause of the failure in the next few days.

The Perseverance rover successfully drilled its first hole in the Martian surface, but subsequent analysis showed that the sampling tube did not grab any of the intended Martian soil. NASA engineers speculate that the reason was different behavior of the soil during drilling than predicted by the calculations, and not a malfunction in the sampling system, according to a press release from the space agency.


Everything you need to know about Perseverance’s mission and recent failure in collecting Martian soil

Background

Perseverance is NASA’s newest rover, which arrived on the planet in February 2021. It is based on the same platform as Curiosity, which arrived on Mars in 2012, but differs slightly because the engineers took into account the experience of the previous device in the design, for example, improved the design of the wheels.

Ingenuity

But the Perseverance mission is quite different from Curiosity. Firstly, the rover arrived on Mars not alone, but together with the first extraterrestrial helicopter “Ingenuity”. It made its first flight in April and has taken off eleven more times since then.

First soil samples from Mars

More importantly, Perseverance is part of NASA’s larger plan to deliver the first samples of Martian soil to Earth.

Jezero Crater

“Perseverance” is responsible for collecting samples from different points of the Jezero crater, or rather from its part, in which the delta of an ancient river. When the rover collects samples (in total, it has 43 sampling tubes), it will leave them in one of the points of the crater, and then, if resources permit, will continue research.

Return to Earth

At the end of the 2020s, a descent vehicle with a rocket and a small rover will fly to Mars, which will take the samples prepared for it, load them into the rocket, after which it will send the soil to Earth.

Another shot of the hole Perseverance drilled in the ground. Credit: NASA / JPL-Caltech
Another shot of the hole Perseverance drilled in the ground. Credit: NASA / JPL-Caltech

Methods for sample collection

Since the soil will need to be transferred to another rover, Perseverance collects them into sealed sampling tubes. For this, an empty open-ended tube is placed inside the drill bit.

Operation

During the operation, the drill removes the Martian soil around it and sinks, and at the same time, the untouched central part of the soil enters the pipe.

Process

Once collected, the arm then transfers the tube to the carousel, from which it is picked up by another arm and sent first to the instruments to capture and estimate the volume taken, and then to the storage system.

Perseverance drilled its first hole

On August 6, the rover successfully drilled the first well on the surface, as can be judged by the distant soil around it. However, after the sampling tube was inserted into the volumetric assessment instrument, it was found to be empty.

Reasons for Perseverance’s failure

NASA notes that experts will conduct data analysis to understand the cause of the failure in the next few days. At the same time, the preliminary concluded that most likely the reason was not the incorrect operation of the sampling system, but the behavior of the Martian soil, which differs from the intended one.


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Sources:

Andrews, R. G. (2021, August 6). NASA’s perseverance Mars Rover foiled in first attempt to Grab rock for return to Earth. Scientific American.
Bartels, M. (2021, August 6). Perseverance rover drills into Mars for 1st time in milestone for sample collection. Space.com.
Potter, S. (2021, August 6). NASA’s perseverance team Assessing first mars Sampling attempt. NASA.
Wall, M. (2021, August 6). NASA’s 1st attempt to COLLECT Mars samples with Perseverance ROVER comes up empty. Space.com.

Written by Vladislav Tchakarov

Hello, my name is Vladislav and I am glad to have you here on Curiosmos. My experience as a freelance writer began in 2018 but I have been part of the Curiosmos family since mid-2020. As a history student, I have a strong passion for history and science, and the opportunity to research and write in this field on a daily basis is a dream come true.

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