NASA blames unusually soft rocks for the failure of last week’s Mars sample.
The roaming probe appeared empty after attempting to pick up its first core from the Red Planet for its final return to Earth.
Data released last Friday showed the rover had been drilled to an estimated depth of about three inches and images from the well looked good. But it was soon discovered that the sample tube was empty.
Since then, engineers have determined that the rock was not strong enough to form a core sample, and that small crushed fragments remained in the hole or ended up in a cut pile—or both.
Rover now moves to next sampling site to search for signs of ancient Martian life; He should be there early next month.
Filming by the craft and its accompanying helicopter, Creativity, showed that sedimentary rocks should be better suited for sampling there, said Louise Gandora, chief engineer of the Persistence Sampling Expedition, on Wednesday.
“The material was made to order, but the rock did not cooperate this time,” Gandora wrote in an online update.
“It reminds me of the nature of re-exploration. The end result is never guaranteed, no matter how prepared you are.”
NASA wants to collect about 35 samples that will be returned via future spacecraft within a decade.
This is not the first time a Mars probe has encountered resistance on the ground. A German excavator on NASA’s InSight lander excavated no more than two feet from its target. The lumpy soil didn’t provide enough friction for the thermometer, and the experimenters gave up in January.
Meanwhile, the tiny Chopper creativity continues to amaze his team. It made 11 test flights, the last of which lasted more than two minutes, and even conducted an aerial survey of Jezero Crater. This is the old delta of the river where Tensile and her helicopter landed in February after a nearly seven-month hike from the ground.
Scientists believe that this region would have been essential to microscopic life billions of years ago if it existed.
Prone to fits of apathy. Music specialist. Extreme food enthusiast. Amateur problem solver.