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NASA Perseverance Rover Does a Little Shimmy to Get Rid of Stubborn Martian Pebbles

What do you do when Mars throws pebbles at you? You shake them off. As simple as it might sound, when you’re a six-wheeled machine stuck on a cold planet that’s millions of miles away – it’s no easy task. But NASA’s Perseverance rover did it, and it’s now pebble-free and ready to get back to drilling for more core samples.
NASA's Perseverance rover clears cored-rock fragments from its sample tube  7 photos
Perseverance’s bit carouselThis image shows the drill holes left in the rock nicknamed Issole by the science teamPebble-sized debris can be seen in the bit carousel of NASA’s PerseverancePebble-sized debris can be seen in the bit carousel of NASA’s PerseverancePerseverance’s bit carouselThis image shows the Martian surface below the Perseverance rover
NASA’s Perseverance rover has been busy for the past few months with collecting core samples from the ancient rock layer located in the Jezero Crater. After extracting its sixth sample from a rock nicknamed by scientists “Issole,” the rover encountered an anomaly: it couldn’t store the sample inside its belly.

The machine keeps all of the equipment inside its belly, including the sample tubes and a rotating drill carousel, which is a wheel with different drill bits.

On December 29th, the Perseverance team discovered something blocked the rover from storing the sample in the tube: a few pieces of pebble-sized debris were blocking the bit carousel. The team started a series of maneuvers to get the pebbles out and allow the rover to resume operations.

On January 17th, Perseverance successfully ejected two stones by rotating the bit carousel at around 75 degrees. There were still two small rock fragments left, which had to be taken out from the sampling system.

So, scientists came up with a solution. They commanded Perseverance “to reverse up onto some nearby rocks to get tilted” and do “a twist with one foot.” That seemed to have worked because sometime during the process, the two pebbles were ejected.

The team also decided to empty the sample tube that was partially filled with the latest cored-rock sample. The fragments returned to their planet of origin, and now the rover has to start the process all over again. But that’s a small price to pay, considering that the carousel bit is clean and Perseverance can get back to drilling.


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