Perseverance rover’s first attempt to collect rock samples on Mars fails

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NASA’s Mars rover Perseverance’s first attempt to collect a sample of Martian rock was unsuccessful. That says the space agency, based on data sent to Earth by Perseverance.

“Data sent to Earth by NASA’s Perseverance rover after its first attempt to collect a rock sample on Mars and seal it in a sample tube indicates that no rock was collected during the initial sampling activity” NASA writes.

According to the space agency, the drill, coring bit and titanium sample tube worked “as intended.” At the end of this fully autonomous collection process, the volume of the sample is measured. “The probe did not meet the expected resistance that there would be if there was a sample in the tube,” NASA writes.

The Perseverance team investigates what went wrong. Perseverance will continue to explore Jezero crater, according to NASA, while the team on Earth “evaluates its activities.” The first impression, according to NASA, is that the rock object did not react as the organization expected. A hardware problem is less likely, NASA reports.

Perseverance examines this Jezero crater on the Martian landscape for signs of past life and collects samples of rocks and the ground there. The first attempt to do so was therefore unsuccessful, but Perseverance has a total of 43 titanium tubes for soil samples. According to NASA’s plans, at least 20 of these should be filled with samples from the Martian soil.

“While this isn’t the hole-in-one we hoped for, there are always risks associated with breaking new ground,” writes Thomas Zurbuchen, associate administrator of NASA’s Science Mission directorate. “I am confident we have the right team working on this and we will continue to find a solution to ensure future success.”

The sample tube (left) and borehole from Perseverance’s first collection attempt. Images via NASA