The Mars rover Perseverance encountered difficulties stowing the sixth soil sample and interrupted the procedure. As NASA has now explained, analyzes and photos have shown that there are small stones in the storage carousel that prevent smooth storage and should first be removed. When designing the technology, it was planned that something like this could happen, but nonetheless, the necessary time will now be taken to rectify the problem. This will also be delayed a little because the data connection to the red planet is currently not ideal due to the positions of Earth and Mars and communication is therefore taking longer.
Valuable rock samples turn into disruptive dirt
Perseverance has been on Mars since February 2021 and is the youngest in the line of NASA rovers. It is largely similar to its predecessor Curiosity, but among other things is supposed to take soil samples that are to be brought back to earth for detailed analysis on a later mission. When Perseverance was supposed to take the first sample in August, there had been difficulties and the container remained empty. In September, however, the first extraction worked and since then Perseverance has filled and stored several more sample containers. The seventh extraction, which had been interrupted for the time being, started on December 29th and everything went smoothly at first. Only when the container was transferred to the storage device in the rover did the sensors detect an anomaly and stop working, explains Louise Jandura from NASA.
As Jandura explains, when the sample container was inserted, the sensors noticed a resistance that was stronger than usual and also started too early. After reporting to those responsible on earth, the rover was asked to send more data and take photos. To do this, the sample container had to be removed from there. Photos then confirmed that there were small stones directly at the entrance of the so-called “bit carousel”. They probably fell out during the handover. The system is designed in such a way that it can cope with such stones at this point, but before they are removed, all necessary time will be spent on preparation. The stones should be removed in a “controlled and orderly” manner. The engineer did not say how long that could take.