The persistent Mars rover’s sample collection encountered a snag. NASA reports that the rover stopped temporarily storing samples after debris partially blocked the bit carousel (the device that stores drill bits and passes sample tubes for internal processing). The rover encountered the anomaly on December 29, but the mission team had to wait until January 6 to send a command to extract the drill bit, disengage the robot arm from the carousel and take photos to verify what had happened.
The obstructions are thought to be gravel that fell from the sample tube when the drill bit was dropped, preventing this part from sitting tidy in the carousel. Storage is critical to NASA’s plans to eventually return the samples to Earth.
This is not the end of sample collection. Louise Gandora, chief sampling engineer at NASA/JPL, noted that the carousel is designed to run with debris. This is the first time the team has had to remove the debris, however, Gandora said operators will take the time they need to dispose of the gravel in an “orderly and orderly manner”.
This isn’t the first time that persistence has run into a problem. The rover failed to collect samples during its first attempt, while the Ibdaa helicopter suffered a processing error during its sixth flight. However, this illustrates the mission’s challenges—even a seemingly pedestrian mission like storing a sample can go awry in the wrong conditions. And when Mars is very far away, repairs aren’t necessarily easy or certain.
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