NASA’s Perseverance rover has made a rare mistake. Space agency disclosed that the robotic vehicle failed to collect rock samples from Mars on its first attempt. While the hammer drill, crown, and sampling tube machining worked “as intended,” the probe showed the tube was empty – not quite what the scientists expected when they checked everything else.
Scientists are still investigating what happened and may not receive an answer for several days. Perseverance Project Manager Jennifer Throsper said the team suspected the rock might react unexpectedly during the coring process. In other words, the hardware is most likely in order.
The surface of Mars has posed problems more than once. For example, in 2008, the Phoenix Lander lander had problems picking up sticky soil, while Curiosity and InSight were also unable to break open rocks and the surface itself.
This initial failure will not necessarily jeopardize Perseverance’s mission. However, NASA wants to keep such incidents to a minimum. In no small measure, the rover was sent to Mars to collect samples that will eventually return to Earth and help scientists find signs of a past life. The fewer samples NASA gets, the less likely it is to investigate the history of Mars.
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