Even lonely robots on distant planets do a little dance sometimes. Perseverance, which is currently collecting rock samples on Mars, ran into some trouble recently when pebbles clogged its sampling system. The solution? A little twist and shake.
When you run into a challenge, sometimes it’s best to step back and shake it off.
I reversed up onto some nearby rocks to get tilted, and did a twist with one foot. Somewhere along the way I’ve shaken loose the other two pebbles in my sampling system. Back to #SamplingMars soon! pic.twitter.com/gAs6E0tGcf
— NASA's Perseverance Mars Rover (@NASAPersevere) January 25, 2022
What might be a simple fix on Earth is—unsurprisingly—considerably more complicated on Mars. The pebbles initially posed a problem in late December, when Louise Jandura, Chief Engineer for Sampling & Caching at NASA/JPL, wrote in a blog post, “This is only the 6th time in human history a sample has been cored from a rock on a planet other than Earth, so when we see something anomalous going on, we take it slow.” It’s taken multiple steps to clear the rover of pebbles—the robot dance party is just the finale.
The Perseverance launched July 30, 2020, and took nearly seven months to reach Mars. As Space.com explained, “Perseverance will do things no Mars rover has ever done — hunt for signs of life, collect samples for future return to Earth and deploy a miniature helicopter, to name a few.” Its mission is detailed at NASA’s Mars 2020 website, where step one of the rover’s surface operations is “Find Compelling Rocks.” This is a mission close to my own rock-collecting heart, and probably some of yours as well.
At NASA’s site, you can see raw images of Perseverance’s findings, listen to the sounds of Mars, check out the Mars weather report, and otherwise fall really far down a rabbit hole of cool space stuff. (Don’t say we didn’t warn you!)
You can keep up with the rover’s adventures on Twitter.