NASA’s missions on Mars went through some serious situations in December and January. The robotic InSight station finally came out of safe mode after surviving a powerful dust storm. Now experts need to assess the level of dust on the solar panels, and then resume the work of the station’s scientific instruments.
In another report, we learned that Perseverance’s drilling problems continued and the rover had to completely remove the samples from the sampling tube to solve its recent seal failure.
InSight survived a powerful dust storm
InSight has been in safe mode since January 7, 2022, due to a major dust storm that severely limited the amount of light available to solar panels. All this time, the station did not conduct scientific research, but only transmitted data on its condition to Earth.
On January 19, engineers brought the station out of safe mode, determining that the storm had subsided. Now they have to determine how much the level of available power of the batteries has fallen due to the deposition of dust on them, only after that, the scientific instruments will resume their work.
Skies seem to be clearing overhead, so I’m out of safe mode and back to more normal operations. I’ll wait to start doing more science until I know how much power I can expect to generate once the storm settles. https://t.co/cUXu0kaWfc
— NASA InSight (@NASAInSight) January 19, 2022
The problem with the deposition of dust on the batteries of the station has existed for a long time – it was previously expected that they would be cleaned by dust whirlwinds, but this did not happen. Then the experts came up with a method of cleaning due to a jet of sand, but this did not completely solve the problem.
If by the spring of this year scientists do not find a more efficient way to clean dust from batteries, then the station’s scientific program will be completed ahead of schedule.
Perseverance’s sampling problems continue
Problems with the sampling of the sixth core of the Martian rock began at the end of December last year. The drilling process itself went smoothly. However, during the transfer of the sampling tube from the manipulator to the carousel mechanism, an unforeseen situation occurred – part of the rock fell out of the tube, which led to a halt in work.
After analyzing the situation, the specialists decided to completely clean the carousel mechanism and throw the samples out.
On January 15, 2022, engineers first oriented the arm so that the rotary percussion drill was tilted about 9 degrees below horizontal, and then rotated the drill. At the same time, the Mastcam-Z camera recorded rock fragments flying out of the drill bit/sampling tube.
On January 17, the operation was repeated, this time the drill was, in fact, shaken for 208 seconds so that the tube was completely empty. In addition, the carousel of bits was rotated by about 75 degrees, which allowed two pebbles to be removed from it.
There is another problem, however. There are still two more fragments of rocks inside the rover, below the carousel. It is assumed that they may not interfere with the further work of the rover. However, experts are still continuing to analyze the situation to confirm this. This is not the first unsuccessful attempt to take a sample of Martian soil.
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• Howell, E. (2022, January 20). NASA’s Insight Mars Lander awakens from ‘safe mode’ after Red Planet Dust Storm. Space.com.
• NASA. (n.d.). Assessing perseverance’s seventh sample collection.
• NASA. (n.d.). Ejecting mars’ pebbles.
• O’Neill, M. (2022, January 22). NASA Mars Perseverance Rover: Ejecting Martian Pebbles. SciTechDaily.