A Pebble Problem Affects the Perseverance Rover

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The Perseverance Rover is having a pebble issue.

The rover on Mars is dealing with some debris that has halted its sample collection.

A Martian rock sample extracted on December 29 didn’t transfer correctly into the rover’s long-term storage, causing the Perseverance rover to encounter a snag.

Before continuing with more sampling, NASA is working on removing debris from the rover’s machinery.

The problem occurred when the rock sample was moved from the end of the robotic arm that drilled it onto the carousel that holds the sample tubes, according to Louise Jandura, chief engineer for sampling and caching at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, in a NASA blog post.

When the coring bit holding the sample first comes into contact with the carousel, sensors on Perseverance track resistance, and this time there was more drag than usual.

The Perseverance team sent a request for more data and imagery to the rover, as well as instructions to separate the drill bit and sample from the carousel.

NASA received data on January 7 after the separation occurred on January 6.

The team believes the debris is pieces of the cored rock that fell out during the drop-off process, preventing the drill bit from nestling neatly in the carousel. Images from the rover revealed several bits of regolith and pebbles.

Perseverance can store samples even with debris in the way, according to Jandura, but because the (dollar)2.7-billion-dollar rover is still relatively new on Mars and has plenty more science in store, the team hopes to clear the pebbles before continuing on with the mission.

The sample came from Issole, a rock outcrop known for its large, difficult-to-navigate sand dunes, where the team hopes to collect a pair of samples from the crater floor in Sétah, a region known for its large, difficult-to-navigate sand dunes.

“[B]y studying the directions that the layers tilted, we determined that the rocks of Sétah are likely the most ancient rocks exposed in all of Jezero crater,” according to a NASA blog from November.

As a result, Sétah marks the start of the accessible geologic record and presents a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to explore the entire…

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