There is a military maxim that no plan will be spared after the first contact with the enemy. Although we have not yet started a war with Mars, at least not yet, it does seem to be a place for extreme testing of the most complete scientific programs.and The Perseverance apparently failed to retrieve its first sample of the Martian core It is another example of how difficult it is to carry out geotechnical engineering on another planet.
To be sure, many aspects of the first sampling operation are correct. This is a particularly noteworthy feat because the entire process is autonomous. As we have detailed before, this process is not simple, it involves three independent robot components, which must coordinate their operations perfectly. Telemetry shows that the percussion drill at the end of the 2.1 m robotic arm can use its hollow core bit to drill into the rock of Jezero crater, and the sample tube in the core bit was successfully twisted to break the core sample.
But what was supposed to happen next-the small core sample in the sample tube was clogged-didn’t seem to happen. This is assessed by handing the sample tube to the sample handling arm in Perseverance’s abdomen, where a small probe is used to see how much material has been recovered-in this case not. NASA/JPL engineers then started looking for problemsThe engineering camera did not show the core sample on the surface of Mars, which means that the sample processing robot did not drop it. The core sample is also not in the borehole, which means that the cam mechanism designed to hold the core does not work. However, the borehole looked suspicious-it didn’t seem to be deep enough, as if the core sample was broken into dust and stuffed into the bottom of the hole.
If this proves to be the cause of the failure, this will be another example of the Martian weathering layer not functioning as expected. For InSight, this discovery sounded the death knell for a large part of its scientific program. Fortunately, Perseverance can cheer up and switch to better rock music, which is exactly what it will do in September. They still have 42 unused sample tubes to process, so for good luck next time.
[Featured images: NASA/JPL-Caltech]