NASA blames Mars rover sampling fiasco on bad, powdery rock

This pair of August 2021 images made available by NASA shows the drill hole from Perseverance’s first sample-collection attempt on Mars. NASA is blaming unusually soft rock for last week’s sampling fiasco on Mars. The Perseverance rover came up empty after attempting to collect its first core sample on the red planet for eventual return to Earth. Data beamed back on Friday, Aug. 6, 2021 showed that the rover drilled to the proper depth of nearly 3 inches (8 centimeters), and pictures of the borehole looked good. But it quickly became clear the sample tube was empty.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS via AP

NASA is blaming unusually soft rock for last week’s sampling fiasco on Mars.

The Perseverance  came up empty after attempting to collect its first core  on the red planet for eventual return to Earth. Data beamed back last Friday showed that the rover drilled to the proper depth of nearly 3 inches (8 centimeters), and pictures of the borehole looked good. But it quickly became clear the sample tube was empty.

Since then, engineers have determined the rock was not strong enough to produce a core sample, and the small, powdery fragments remained in the hole or ended up in the cuttings pile—or both. So the rover is moving on to the next sampling site in its quest for signs of ancient Martian life; it should arrive there by early next month.

Imaging by the rover and its companion helicopter, Ingenuity, show the  should be much better for sampling there, Louise Jandura, chief engineer for Perseverance’s sampling campaign, said Wednesday.

“The hardware performed as commanded but the  did not cooperate this time,” Jandura wrote in an online update.

“It reminds me yet again of the nature of exploration,” she said. “A specific result is never guaranteed no matter how much you prepare.”

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