NASA’s Perseverance Rover Completes First Attempt to Collect Mars Soil Samples

Data received late September 1 from NASA’s Perseverance rover indicates that the team has achieved its goal of successfully extracting a rock from Mars.

As revealed through a statement, the initial downlinked images after the historical event show an intact sample present in the tube after ginning.

However, additional images taken after the arm completed sample acquisition were inconclusive due to poor sunlight conditions. Another round of images with better lighting will be taken before sample processing continues.

Obtaining additional images before proceeding with the sealing and storage of the Mars rock sample is an extra step the team chose to include based on their experience with the rover’s August 5 sampling attempt.

As detailed by NASA, although the Perseverance mission team is confident the sample is in the tube, the images in optimal lighting conditions will confirm its presence.

Perseverance’s sampling and caching system uses a rotating percussive drill and a hollow core drill at the end of its 2 meter long robotic arm to extract samples slightly thicker than a pencil.

NASA’s Perseverance Rover Completes First Attempt

Inside the drill during ginning is a sample tube. After completing yesterday’s ginning, Perseverance maneuvered the gin, drill, and open end of the sample tube to image the rover’s Mastcam-Z instrument.

The target for the attempted sample collection was a paste-sized rock belonging to a ridge line that is more than 900 meters long and contains rock outcrops and boulders.

As detailed by NASA, the initial set of Mastcam-Z images showed the end of a tubular rock inside the sample tube.

After taking these images, the rover began a procedure called “ingest percussion,” which vibrates the drill and tube for one second, five times apart. The movement is designed to clean the test tube edge of any residual material.

The action can also cause a sample to slip into the tube. After the rover finished the percussion ingest procedure, it obtained a second set of Mastcam-Z images. In these images, lighting is poor and the inner parts of the test tube are not visible.

Commands sent to the rover earlier today will result in corer and tube images being acquired tomorrow, September 3, at times of day on Mars when the Sun is tilted in a more favorable position.

Mars Soil Samples

As detailed by NASA, photos will also be taken after sunset to reduce the point sources of light that can saturate an image. The photos will be returned to Earth on the morning of September 4th.

If the results of this additional image remain inconclusive, the Perseverance team still has several options to choose from in the future.

This includes using the Sampling and Cache System volume probe (located inside the rover chassis) as a final confirmation that the sample is in the tube.

Also according to the information, the September 1 gin is the second time that Perseverance uses its Sampling and Cache System since landing at Jezero Crater on February 18, 2021. Check out:

Mars soil samples
NASA/JPL-Caltech

With information from NASA

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