Perseverance knows its first worries on Mars

He is the star of NASA, but now Perseverance suffers from several “sore throats” preventing it from functioning.

He had been the star of NASA since arriving on Our Red Neighbor last February. But for the past few days, the rover seems to have had a sore throat. Indeed, the rover has collected its sixth rock sample in recent days, while these small pieces of the red planet must be sealed in test tubes, as in the image below, so that tests can be carried out on Earth.

© NASA

A second mission should indeed come in several years to Mars to recover the test tubes and bring them back to Earth, at the beginning of the 2030s. Such an in-depth study of Martian soil should allow NASA scientists to unravel the last secrets of our neighbor, including answering the crucial question: Did Mars welcome life during its past?

Proof of life on Mars at your fingertips

Some optimists, like Jean Francois Clervoy confided to us during the landing of the rover, think that life could even be still relevant on Mars, in the basement. While there is no consensus today on this theory, it is much more widely accepted that the red planet has surely harbored life over the last few millions of years.

NASA hopes that Perseverance will provide evidence of a past presence of life on Mars, even if the latter is surely only microbial. In order to prove this theory, it is therefore necessary to collect pieces of rock within the crater of Jezero. A task that the rover had tackled with great success so far.

A pebble in the gear

But now, during the last attempt to collect, several small pebbles seized the gear. When engineers on Earth received warning signals, suggesting unexpected resistance, they asked Perseverance to take photos of its collection area (image below).

caillou-nasa-perseverance
© NASA

Now that the presence of debris is confirmed, NASA will take its time to clear it. It is indeed the first time that the American space agency has to carry out such a procedure. As our science post colleagues reminded us, this is not the first time that NASA and JPL, the agency’s laboratory in charge of this mission, have had issues with Perseverance.

The very first collection carried out by NASA was a failure, no rock having entered the test tube. JPL seems to have learned from its mistakes, and the next four attempts were very successful.


Source: Journal du Geek by www.journaldugeek.com.

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