BLOGMARS PERSEVERANCE ROVER


Assessing Perseverance's First Sample Attempt

The drill hole from Perseverance’s first sample-collection attempt can be seen, along with the shadow of the rover, in the left image taken by one of the rover’s navigation cameras. The right image is a composite image of Perseverance’s first borehole on Mars was generated using multiple images taken by the rover’s WATSON imager. Credits: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS. Left image | Right image

After the commands for sol 164 were sent for the first sample acquisition and processing on the target Roubion, it was time to take a few hours off and wait for the result. More than 90 engineers and scientists who had worked years preparing for this moment gathered online at 2 am PDT on Friday, August 6 to wait together for the first data from the coring operation. This data verified that the Corer had achieved the full commanded depth (7 centimeters) and we saw the image of the hole on Mars surrounded by the cuttings pile (material produced around the borehole during coring). So far, so good we thought as we signed off to try and get a few more hours of sleep before the next set of data arrived about 6 hours later.

What followed later in the morning was a rollercoaster of emotions. Engineering telemetry and an image from the CacheCam inside the Adaptive Caching Assembly (ACA, the tube processing hardware) confirmed we had transferred the sample tube from the Corer to the ACA, sealed the sample tube, and successfully placed it in storage – a huge first-time success. The team was elated. Then the volume measurement and post-measurement image arrived indicating that the sample tube was empty. It took a few minutes for this reality to sink in but the team quickly transitioned to investigation mode. It is what we do. It is the basis of science and engineering.

What followed was two full days of combing through the data and adding more observations to the tactical plan to augment the investigation. Thus far we have concluded the following:

  1. Engineering telemetry of the Corer performance during both the abrasion and coring activities has not uncovered any unusual response compared to the data from our successful Earth-based testing (> 100 cores drilled in a range of test rocks);
     
  2. Imaging of the workspace in the areas over which the hardware has traveled during the post-coring activities has not resulted in finding an intact core or core pieces on the Martian surface;
     
  3. Depth measurements of the borehole derived from the merge of image products from WATSON along with the image itself lead us to believe that the coring activity in this unusual rock resulted only in powder/small fragments which were not retained due to their size and the lack of any significant chunk of a core. It appears that the rock was not robust enough to produce a core. Some material is visible in the bottom of the hole. The material from the desired core is likely either in the bottom of the hole, in the cuttings pile, or some combination of both. We are unable to distinguish further given the measurement uncertainties.

Both the science and engineering teams believe that the uniqueness of this rock and its material properties are the dominant contributor to the difficulty in extracting a core from it. Therefore, we will head to the next sampling location in South Seitah, the farthest point of this phase of our science campaign. Based on rover and helicopter imaging to date, we will likely encounter sedimentary rocks there that we anticipate will align better with our Earth-based test experience.

The hardware performed as commanded but the rock did not cooperate this time. It reminds me yet again of the nature of exploration. A specific result is never guaranteed no matter how much you prepare. Despite this result, science and engineering have progressed. We achieved the first complete autonomous sequence of our sampling system on Mars within the time constraints of a single Sol. This bodes well for the pace of our remaining science campaign. We are looking forward to the next sampling attempt in South Seitah, anticipated in early September.



About This Blog

These blog updates are provided by self-selected Mars 2020 mission team members who love to share what Perseverance is doing with the public.

Dates of planned rover activities described in these blogs are subject to change due to a variety of factors related to the Martian environment, communication relays and rover status.

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Contributors+

  • Mariah Baker
    Planetary Scientist, Smithsonian National Air & Space Museum
    Washington, DC
  • Iona Brockie
    Sampling Engineer, NASA/JPL
    Pasadena, CA
  • Sawyer Brooks
    Docking Systems Engineer, NASA/JPL
    Pasadena, CA
  • Denise Buckner
    Student Collaborator, University of Florida
    Gainesville, FL
  • Alyssa Deardorff
    Systems Engineer, NASA/JPL
    Pasadena, CA
  • Kenneth Farley
    Project Scientist, Caltech
    Pasadena, CA
  • Brad Garczynski
    Student Collaborator, Purdue University
    West Lafayette, IN
  • Erin Gibbons
    Student Collaborator, McGill University
    Montreal, Canada
  • Louise Jandura
    Chief Engineer for Sampling & Caching, NASA/JPL
    Pasadena, CA
  • Lydia Kivrak
    Student Collaborator, University of Florida
    Gainesville, FL
  • Rachel Kronyak
    Systems Engineer, NASA/JPL
    Pasadena, CA
  • Matt Muszynski
    Vehicle Systems Engineer, NASA/JPL
    Pasadena, CA
  • Pegah Pashai
    Vehicle Systems Engineer Lead, NASA/JPL
    Pasadena, CA
  • David Pedersen
    Co-Investigator, PIXL Instrument, Technical University of Denmark (DTU)
    Copenhagen, Denmark
  • Jennifer Trosper
    Project Manager, NASA/JPL
    Pasadena, CA
  • Roger Wiens
    Principal Investigator, SuperCam / Co-Investigator, SHERLOC instrument, LANL
    Los Alamos, NM

Tools on the Perseverance Rover+

The Perseverance rover has tools to study the history of its landing site, seek signs of ancient life, collect rock and soil samples, and help prepare for human exploration of Mars. The rover carries:


CAMERAS & SPECTROMETERS
GROUND-PENETRATING RADAR
ENVIRONMENTAL SENSORS
TECHNOLOGY DEMO
SAMPLE COLLECTION

Where is the Rover?

Image of a rover pin-point at Perseverance's location on Mars, Jezero Crater

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