NASA scientists are still trying to explain it. Something went wrong when the persistent rover tried to sample the first rocks from the Red Planet.
The robot systems seemed to work perfectly, but when the experts examined the tube in which the samples should have been stored, they found that it was empty.
The team in charge of the expedition believes that the specific characteristics of the collected rock may have been the cause of the failure.
Images and telemetry arriving from Mars should help solve the mystery.
“The initial idea is that the empty tube is the result of the target rock not interacting in the way we expected during extraction. It’s more of a problem with the sampling and deposit system hardware,” he said. Jennifer Prosper, Project manager perseverance At NASA’s Jet Lab in California.
“In the coming days, the team will spend more time analyzing the data we have and getting more diagnostic data to understand the root cause of an empty tube.”
Perseverance has a rock-digging and extraction system at the end of its two-meter-long robotic arm.
This system makes it capable of cutting and extracting finger-sized rock samples that are then passed to a processing unit housed in the bowels of NASA’s ingenuity, where they are packaged and sealed in titanium cylinders.
But before sealing, the camera and probe evaluate the amount of material collected. On Friday, August 6, when this task was completed, it became clear that the sample tube was empty.
This wouldn’t be the first time that the surface of Mars has been shown to be difficult to crack for space robots.
In 2007, NASA’s Phoenix rover found that soil in the so-called arctic region of the Red Planet had a viscous consistency that made sampling difficult for the onboard laboratory.
And in 2018, InSight missed its goal of installing a thermometer in the rocky soil of Mars. The subsoil turns out to be surprisingly harsh.
perseverance It landed on Mars in February, in a 45-kilometre-wide crater called Jezero. Your task is to find out if life exists on Mars, or if it exists at all.
One way that scientists hope Perseverance will shed light on is by collecting rock samples that will then be sent back to Earth.
The first attempt was made on a rock suspected to be the material from which Jezero was formed. Scientists are confident that its age can be accurately determined, which allows to draw a timeline of everything that happened next in the huge crater.
Satellite images show that Jezero Island appears to have housed a lake several billion years ago. It is the type of environment that can be susceptible to the emergence of microorganisms.
Thomas ZurbuchenNASA’s chief science officer said he had no doubts that engineers would soon begin work on why the persistence sample tube was empty.
“I am confident we have the right team working and we will persevere until we find a solution,” he added.