May 23, 2022

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NASA: Collection of samples affected by soft rocks on Mars

NASA: Collection of samples affected by soft rocks on Mars

CAPE CAÑAVERAL, Florida, US (AP) – An attempt to collect samples from Mars last week failed because the rocks were too soft, NASA said Wednesday.

The Perseverance probe fails to get anything after trying to collect the first cylinder sample on the Red Planet to be sent to Earth in the future. Data sent last Friday showed that the probe dug to a depth of 8 centimeters (3 inches) and images of the hole looked good. But soon it turned out that the sample tube was empty.

Engineers have since determined that the stone was not strong enough to provide a cylindrical sample, and that the small, brittle fragments either remained inside the hole or ended up in a pile of mined rock debris, or both. Therefore, the probe will move to the next sampling site in its search for signs of past life on Mars, arriving in the early days of next month.

Images from the rover and its accompanying helicopter, an innovation, reveal that the sedimentary rocks at the new excavation site look much better for sampling, Louise Gandora, mission engineering director for Perseverance sampling, said Wednesday.

“The team performed as required, but this time the stone wasn’t cooperating,” Gondora wrote in an online post.

“It reminds me again what the nature of exploration activities are,” he added. “A definite result is never guaranteed, no matter how prepared you are.”

NASA aims to collect about 35 samples, which will be sent back to Earth on another spacecraft within a decade.

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This isn’t the first time the probe has found an anti-Earth on Mars. The German excavator on NASA’s InSight probe was unable to drill more than 60 cm (two feet), very far from its target. The massive terrain did not provide enough friction for the thermometer device, and the researchers postponed that task in January.

Meanwhile, creativity continues to surprise his team. The small helicopter has completed 11 test flights, the last of which lasted two minutes, and also made flights from the Jezero crater. It’s the ancient delta of a river where the Perseverance and Helicopter landed on the planet in February after a nearly seven-month journey from Earth. Scientists believe the area would have been ideal for the development of microscopic life billions of years ago, if it existed at all.

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The Associated Press’s Department of Health and Science receives support from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute’s Division of Science Education. AP is solely responsible for all content.