Marsrover Perseverances first attempt to collect a stone sample has not gone as planned. The robot car should have cored a piece of stone and caught the grit in a tube, but returned data seems to indicate that nothing got into the tube, NASA reports.
Perseverance has the task of researching traces of potentially past life in the Jezero crater, and will also collect ground and stone samples. These will have to be picked up in a few years by another rover built by the European Space Agency ESA. Ultimately, a European probe must bring the samples to Earth.
In this ECCEIT animation with NASA and ESA images, you can see how the whole operation should work:
So collecting the first sample failed, but the Marswagen still has 42 tubes left for new attempts. Ultimately, the intention is to collect at least 20 samples.
“This isnt the hole in one we hoped for,” NASA manager Thomas Zurbruchen said about the failed attempt. “But theres always a risk when you do something groundbreaking.”
He said he had full confidence in the team that figured out where things went wrong. Collecting samples is a process that the rover performs completely independently. With new borehole close-ups, the team hopes to better understand what went wrong.
Before Perseverance started drilling, the mission team had announced that it was possibly one of the oldest stone monsters that the rover will encounter in the crater. Scientists were excited about it because it is not clear whether it is volcanic rock or deposits from a former lake.