NASA's Perseverance Rover Runs Into a Snag While Collecting Samples on Mars

There's nothing like pebble sized debris to ruin a fine day on Mars.
Loukia Papadopoulos

On September 1, NASA's Perseverance rover successfully completed its first sample-taking operation 190 days into its mission on Mars. It was an exciting time for all, especially the space agency. Things aren't looking as bright now though.

NASA has reported that the rover has encountered a problem with its rock collecting system which has forced the whole mission to take a few steps back. "This is only the 6th time in human history a sample has been cored from a rock on a planet other than Earth, so when we see something anomalous going on, we take it slow," wrote Louise Jandura, Chief Engineer for Sampling and Caching at NASA/JPL in a blog.

Here is what happened

On December 29th, space debris partially blocked the rover's bit carousel, the part of Perseverance that passes sample tubes for internal processing. NASA then had to wait until January 6th to send a command to take images to assess what happened and what needed to be done to fix the issue.

Once it had all the appropriate information, NASA sent up a command to extract the drill bit and sample-filled tube from the bit carousel and undock the robotic arm from the bit carousel. The space agency then took more images to determine what exactly was blocking the carousel.

"These most recent downlinked images confirm that inside the bit carousel there are a few pieces of pebble-sized debris. The team is confident that these are fragments of the cored rock that fell out of the sample tube at the time of Coring Bit Dropoff, and that they prevented the bit from seating completely in the bit carousel," wrote Jandura.

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Well, there you have it, folks. It was just a small amount of pebbles but it managed to knock Perseverance out of operations for a few days. Luckily all is well that ends well and the rover can continue its rock-collecting mission.