May 22, 2022

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The first Martian stone collected by perseverance

The first Martian stone collected by perseverance

A persistent rover or NASA explorer will be able to collect his first rock sample from the surface of Mars, one of the main goals of his space mission. About a month ago, the scientist was stunned when he apparently collected a sample, which disappeared for no fixed reason. Pictures are expected to confirm that the sample is indeed there.

A representation of how the explorer extracted a rock sample

NASA/JPL-Caltech

The rock on which they were baptized Rochet, so that on a future space flight to Mars they can search for it to take it back to Earth and thus study its geological characteristics and possible traceability of past life on the Red Planet. The September 1 sampling is the second time Perseverance has used the capture and sampling system since it landed in Jezero Crater on February 18, 2021.

A sample of the thickness of a pencil

Taking such a sample, even if it seems so, is not easy. It requires a remote control, at a distance of approximately 225 million km, to select a valuable candidate rock for some geological feature or linked to a possible source of past life. In addition, sampling consists of drilling the rock with a hollow drill, with the sample in the center and then placing it in a sample tube and airtight. All of this process is carried out by the spacecraft and its two-meter robotic arm, with a hole or drill that can drop the sample.

The first rocky sign of perseverance.  The center piece is a pencil-sized piece of rock in the middle of the piece you dug up to extract it.

The first rocky sign of perseverance. The center piece is a pencil-sized piece of rock in the middle of the piece you dug up to extract it.

NASA

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But the sample did not fall off. It was in the center of the piece the size of a pencil. It was lowered into the tube in a 5-second vibrating motion. Was she inside? They wanted to check it out visually, and they couldn’t. At that moment, the position of the sun did not allow it.

The sampling process is independent, from start to finish.


Jessica Samuels, NASA

Jessica SamuelsHead of Perseverance Mission

An additional imaging round was not planned before the tube was closed and stored inside the spacecraft, but the August 5 experience, which disappointed the team, prompted them to decide to have Perseverance take additional pictures of the sample tube before it was finished. Collect your first, scientifically selected Martian sample.

On that day about a month ago, Perseverance dug into the rock and when he put it in the tube, he didn’t detect anything inside the tube. “The sampling process is independent from start to finish,” says Jessica Samuels, NASA’s mission manager. “One of the first tests when collecting the sample in the tube is to measure its volume with a probe.” The probe did not find a volume indicating that there was something in the tube. Later the photos confirmed that there was nothing.

A hole in the rock on Mars after a sample was extracted

A hole in the rock on Mars after a sample was taken on September 1, 2021

NASA

So on this second attempt, in addition to measuring if there is something inside the tube with a probe and sealing the tube, they want to see it with their own eyes. Even if it is in the pictures that takes two days to arrive.

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We did what we came for. We’ll be working on this little incident and still encourage having a sample in that tube.


Jennifer Harris Trosper of NASA

Jennifer Harris TrosperNASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory and Perseverance Mission Project Director

“The project has gotten the first rock extracted through a tube, which is a tremendous achievement,” said Jennifer Harris Trosper, NASA project manager. “The team located, selected and extracted the core of a rock that is viable and of scientific value. We did what we came for. We’ll work through this little hiccup with the lighting conditions in the images and still encourage…that there is a sample in this tube.”

“If the results of these additional images remain inconclusive, the persistence team still has several options going forward, including using the sample volume probe and capture system (located inside the rover’s hull) as final confirmation that the sample is in the tube,” NASA reports.

determination

Infographic of the Mars Perseverance mission since February 2021

NASA, adapted from La Vanguardia