Why Perseverance’s First Mars Drilling Attempt Failed


Last week, NASA The Perseverance rover achieved a new milestone in its search for extraterrestrial life: drilling into Mars to extract the rock plug, and finally launching it back to Earth for scientists to study. The data sent to NASA scientists earlier on August 6 indicated a victory—the robot did penetrate the red planet, and a photo even showed dust piles around the borehole.

Louise Jandura, chief engineer of sampling and caching at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, wrote in an article: “Later in the morning, emotions are like a roller coaster.” Blog post The attempt was described yesterday. Although the data indicated that Hengxin had transferred a sample tube to its abdomen for storage, the tube was actually empty. “This reality took a few minutes, but the team quickly switched to investigative mode,” Jandura wrote. “This is what we do. It is the foundation of science and engineering.”

So far, the team has some indications of what went wrong with what Katie Stack Morgan, the deputy project scientist of the Mars 2020 mission, called the “core missing case.”

“We have successfully demonstrated the sample caching process, but there is no core in our tube,” she said. “How can we complete all these steps perfectly and successfully, but without rocks—nor anything——In the tube? “

Of course, one theory is that the rover simply lost the core sample. But there are no fragments on the surface. In addition, Stark Morgan said, the tube was “very clean, not even dusty, which suggests that nothing may have entered the tube.”

NASA scientists now believe that the core was actually crushed during the drilling process and then scattered around the borehole. “This can explain why we can’t see any debris in the hole, why we can’t see any debris on the ground, because they have basically become part of the cut,” Stack Morgan said. “So we started thinking about why this happened, because engineers did not see this behavior in the very extensive rock test group that cored before launch.”

Perseverance is drilling at Jezero Crater, which was once the cradle of a lake, so it may be home here Ancient microbial life(It has always relied on the Martian helicopter, Ingenuity, Find places to dig in advance.) By digging rocks instead of just sampling dust on the surface, the rover will provide important clues about the geological history of the earth. The Curiosity rover, which landed on Mars in 2012, also conducted drilling, but it was designed to grind rock rather than extract cores. This time, NASA engineers wanted samples and asked them to observe the rocks as they were laid so that they could analyze the signs of life—for example, some microorganisms leave characteristic minerals.

For Perseverance, the drilling process actually starts inside the rover, in a process called Adaptive cache componentHere, the robotic arm takes a tube from the storage and inserts it into the “drill conveyor belt”, which is a storage container for all Perseverance core drill bits.Then the merry-go-round rotates to reveal tubes of roughly the same shape and size As a laboratory test tube-The 7-foot-long arm actually drills holes. “We picked up that core bit, there was a tube in it,” Jessica Samuels, the persistent ground mission manager, said in an interview before the first drilling attempt. “Now we are ready to actually obtain samples.”


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