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    HomeTechNASA Mars rover dumps pesky pebbles that were clogging its sampling system

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

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    These pebbles interfered with the Perseverance rover’s capacity to stow away a rock pattern tube.


    NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS

    This story is part of Welcome to Mars, our series exploring the red planet.

    When Mars offers you pebbles, you give them again. 

    NASA’s Perseverance rover bumped into an issue with its sampling course of late final yr when some pebbles got in the way of transferring a tube filled with rock into its inner dealing with system. That meant the rover staff needed to get inventive with clearing the blockage. 

    The problem occurred alongside the rover’s bit carousel, which passes the pattern tubes inside for processing. As a take a look at, NASA commanded the rover to rotate the carousel. It labored. The higher two pebbles had been kicked out. “That is nice information, as these small chunks of particles are believed to be the reason for the unsuccessful switch of the drill bit and pattern tube into the carousel again on Dec. 29,” deputy project manager Rick Welch wrote in a mission update on Friday.

    NASA tweeted a nifty GIF displaying earlier than and after views of the bit carousel. You may see how the biggest pebbles at the moment are cleared out.

    There’s nonetheless a small quantity of particles left, however it might not trigger any points for the sampling course of and people bits might fall out when the rover strikes about.

    Jettisoning the pebbles was only one job the rover wanted to perform. The staff additionally determined it will be sensible to empty any remaining rock out of the sample tube so it may very well be reused for a contemporary pattern if wanted. This experiment took a little bit of effort because the staff tried totally different strategies of clearing the tube, together with aiming it towards the bottom. “With the tube’s open finish nonetheless pointed in the direction of the floor, we basically shook the heck out of it for 208 seconds – by way of the percussive perform on the drill,” Welch mentioned.

    The rover examined its handiwork and noticed some rock bits on the bottom. Comply with-up photos present the tube might be reused, presumably for re-sampling the unique rock that kicked off the pebble drawback. 

    Accumulating rock samples is a key a part of Perseverance’s work. NASA is planning a future follow-up mission to gather the samples and produce them again to Earth for research.

    The saga of the pebbles is an efficient illustration of the pliability and creativity required for a robotic to efficiently function on Mars. The sudden can occur, like when the rover’s flying helicopter companion Ingenuity was recently grounded due to bad weather. With some rotations and a few shimmies, it seems to be like Perseverance will get again to constructing its rock assortment pretty quickly.



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